The world's first paid driverless taxis will be prowling the streets as early as December, with Google's Waymo arm to launch autonomous cabs within weeks.
Sources close to the company have told American business title Bloomberg that Waymo - which was founded by Google/Alphabet Inc - will be going head-to-head with Uber in Phoenix, Arizona, by early next month.
“Waymo has been working on self-driving technology for nearly a decade, with safety at the core of everything we do,” the company told Bloomberg, while declining to confirm or elaborate on its launch plans.
The service is expected to undergo a "soft launch" phase, focusing largely on a select group of 400 riders who have already volunteered to test Waymo's services, and covering a relatively small area as it enters its first test phase.
“This positions Waymo really far ahead of everyone else,” said Bloomberg analyst Nick Albanes. “GM is the other leader, and they’re probably more than a year away from doing this. It’s very impressive.”
The plan is shrouded in secrecy at the moment, but it is understood the roll-out will utilise Waymo's fleet of autonomous Chrysler Pacifica people-movers to ferry customers on dedicated routes between their homes and local shops.
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