Self-driving cars are not that far in the future after all. Google is, as of now, letting people use its driverless car service for any ride, and at any time. Waymo, Google’s sister company, has already created an “early rider” program for Phoenix, Arizona, and it’s completely free. Several hundred families are expected to take part in the initial program. Over 500 minivans (Chrysler Pacifica) have been equipped with autonomous technology to handle the flood of ride requests.

Waymo’s autonomous Chrysler Pacifica

Although the program is still in early test stages, it will be the first that they’ve implemented it at such a large scale. Waymo has been doing some preliminary testing with several families, but they wanted to see how the trial would fare on a bigger scale. The test zone in Phoenix is twice the size of San Francisco and testers can choose to take a ride at any time during the day.

Although the end goal is developing fully autonomous driving cars for the general public, this current trial will tell Waymo where people usually travel in a self-driving car, how they treat the cars, what features they use, etc. Applying participants have to be over 18 and live inside the test region, which isn’t really that difficult seeing how massive the area it encompasses is.

A participating family in front of the Pacifica

Note that the cars will not be fully-autonomous. Current Arizona laws govern the use of self-driving cars and demand that a test driver be present behind the wheel to take control should problems arise. To date, the autonomous cars have covered over 2.5 million miles on public roads without any sort of human, during which they’ve been involved in 14 collisions. Given the miles covered, that’s a really low number.

Amazon has been working on their own autonomous car services for over 12 months, but we’ll have more information once they decide to make a public announcement. Would you ever trust a fully self-driving car, or even own one? Let us know in the comments down below.

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Stefan Petrov
I love everything that has to do with cars. I could practically name every manufacturer and model before i could even say mom or dad. Recently i've taken up motorsport, with plans to travel to England and compete should the perfect opportunity arise. In my spare time i like to do some biking, and occasionally play the guitar.