Alphabet’s Waymo One Self-Driving Taxis hit the Road with Drivers

Alphabet’s Waymo One; Google or Alphabet’s (NASAQ: GOOG) self-driving taxi service is on the road with drivers. However, observers believe Waymo’s self-driving vehicles are far from autonomous.

Alphabet’s (NASAQ: GOOG) Waymo One is a re-branding of Waymo’s long-standing “Early Rider” self-driving taxi test instead of a new company. For instance, Ars Technica labels Waymo One a “public commercial service” rather than a company.

In fact, Waymo (the former Google Car) has been testing autonomous vehicles on Phoenix-area streets for some time. Notably, a Waymo passenger service using Chrysler(NYSE: FCAU) Pacifica vans has been operating since June 2017.

Alphabet’s Waymo One is Hauling Passengers

Unlike the test; which operated with select passengers, Alphabet’s Waymo One is open to the public. However, there is no sign, Waymo is planning to expand the service beyond Phoenix.

Waymo claims to have given 20,000 people lifts in the test or Early Rider program. For example, the lifts involve simple errands like trips to Walmart.

Waymo, Fiat Chrysler, and Avis-Budget Group (NYSE: CAR) are cooperating on th eservice. In detail, Avis-Budget is maintaining the vans, Waymo is providing autonomous technology, and Chrysler builds the vans.

In addition, to Chrysler Pacificas, Waymo is testing autonomous Jaguar electric iPaces in Arizona. Moreover, The New York Times claims Toyota (NYSE: TM) and Waymo are developing a second self-driving van.

Alphabet’s Waymo One Autonomous vans are Unsafe without Human Drivers

Waymo’s autonomous vehicles are “cautious, clunky, awkward, and impressive,” The Arizona Republic charges.

In fact, Republic reporter Ryan Randazzo, claims Waymo vehicles cannot safely operate without drivers. Tellingly, Randazzo has been covering Waymo for some time.

To learn more, Randazzo staked out Waymo’s garage in Chandler, Arizona, and followed its vehicles on the road. From his observations, Randazzo alleges Waymo vehicles can only operate in a special “geo-fenced” area.

To clarify, the geo-fenced areas are those regions Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has mapped. Hence if there is no map recorded in the car’s computer,a human driver needs to take over.

Under those conditions, Waymo vehicles can only operate autonomously in certain areas. Thus, a good way to think of Waymo’s vehicles is like an airliner than a car. To explain, a modern airliner flies under autopilot most of the time but there are human pilots who can take over when needed.

Alphabet’s Waymo One Demonstrates Autonomous Cars are 10 years away

In addition, Randazzo found that Waymo vehicles have a hard time with simple tasks like changing lanes. For instance, it took one Waymo van one minute and several times to change lanes.

Therefore, autonomous vehicles will require far more work from companies like Waymo and NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA) to reach your garage. Thus, I think true autonomous vehicles are about 10 years away.

Semi-autonomous vehicles are becoming commonplace. So yes, you can expect to ride in aself-driving vehicle within a decade. However, there will not be a truly autonomous SUV in your driveway for the foreseeable future.