First U.S. Public Trial of Self Driving Cars Planned for Phoenix

The first U.S. public trials of self driving cars will be using Google-pioneered technology to take early riders in Metro Phoenix on their daily travels.


Since 2009, Google’s self driving vehicle prototypes have logged 300 years of driving time, according to Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo on Medium. Waymo is the new business that is bringing the first public trial in the U.S. of self driving cars to Phoenix.

According to Waymo, city planners all over the world are designing for a self-driven future to increase safety and efficiency as well as mobility for more than 16 million people with disabilities. Waymo says its cars:

  • Detect and respond to emergency vehicles
  • Master multi-lane four-way stops
  • Anticipate what unpredictable humans do on the road

Smart car features the company has developed reportedly have been tested through two million miles of real-world driving, and since 2016, through one billion miles of simulation testing. Waymo believes its solution can reduce fatalities and crashes, claiming that 94 percent involve human error. The solution is based on LiDAR, a collective trio of sensor-based technologies that comprise the eyes of its self-driving cars.

So why does Waymo need to do a public trial at all? Because the company needs to know how regular people will approach and use these self driving vehicles in real life.

The goal of this program is to let riders use our fleet of self-driving cars every day as their primary or secondary vehicle. We want to gather feedback on how we can develop self-driving products that are both safe and easy to use,” according to a fact sheet about the trial.

Waymo wants to know:

  • How people want to communicate with self driving cars
  • What’s it like to be a passenger
  • What people want to use self driving cars for -- such as personal use or for public transportation

The company is searching for early riders in Chandler, Tempe, Mesa and Gilbert, Ariz., and is already posting early rider portraits on its website. Waymo is looking for families with lots of daily pickups and drop offs, folks that share cars and others with diverse transportation needs. Early riders will able to get in a Waymo Firefly sedan or one of the company’s 600+ Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Minivans and do their regular activities. There’s no cost, but participants are expected to provide feedback on their self-driving transit experiences.

While there is no set date for the program to start, Waymo is seeking to accept hundreds of early riders.

The mayor of Chandler is pleased to host the first public trial of self driving cars in the U.S.:

We are thrilled that Waymo has chosen Chandler and the region to launch the next phase of its autonomous vehicle development. With close to 3 million miles of testing, this is an exciting new juncture for the company, and those who will access this technology. Chandler continues to embrace this technology from the many companies doing research and development here, and I look forward to very positive results from Waymo’s launch of this rider program.”

The company and the trial are supported by organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and others.

Watch how LiDAR and other autonomous vehicle technologies make a public self driving cars trial possible:

Andrea Fox is Editor of and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.