Waymo Prepares to Bring Robotaxi Service to Phoenix Airport and More

Waymo (formerly Google

car) CEO Dmitri Dolgov today announced a further expansion of his efforts in Phoenix, in addition to the expansions reported last week. Waymo will begin testing at the Phoenix airport and will also soon move to operating without a security driver (as Waymo calls it, “passenger only”) in downtown Phoenix. They already operate this way in the suburbs of Chandler, Arizona, and San Francisco.

Testing at the airport evokes the most interest. While this test will be conducted with security drivers and will only be used by Alphabet staff, airports present a first attack on the difficult problem of “pick up and drop off” or PuDo. Previously, it was noted that Cruise decided to deploy to San Francisco without attempting to resolve that issue, drawing the ire of local transit agency Muni.

Robotaxi service, or any unmanned car service, should include cars being able to pull off the road to good locations for PuDo. That means being able to pinpoint these locations (perhaps by mapping them) and handle the somewhat chaotic traffic that can occur at busy ones, and airports are among the busiest. PuDo is often highly regulated at airports, with restrictions on who can do it and where, whether people can leave their cars even for a moment, and special fees are charged to commercial vehicles performing PuDo. Great battles have been waged between taxi companies, shuttles, Uber


and others about the PuDo airport. Uber and Lyft can be said to have lost when the PuDo zone for them is far from the terminal, and not where passengers would prefer to have it.

In some cases, airports will regulate TNCs (taxi network) because they can get money from them, or because they don’t like them, or simply because they are easier to regulate than ordinary drivers. At SFO Airport, TNC PuDo takes place on the top floor of the short-stay parking lot, while people being dropped off by friends can drop them off directly at the terminal curbside.

Worst of all is the situation of remote car rental companies, whose transport services cannot pick up passengers at the airport. SFO built a CONRAC (consolidated rent-a-car) center with a special monorail that brings passengers to it. CONRAC companies have to pay the airport $20 for each renter’s short monorail ride, making it one of the most expensive transit tickets in the world. This situation would mean that the off-airport can rental companies that sent transfers to the terminal would transport their customers more conveniently than the in-airport companies and save the $20, so those customers would instead be forced to take the $20 monorail to the CONRAC. to get your shuttle out of the airport!

Stories like these are repeated at many other airports. Over time, we will see even more complex PuDo situations for large office buildings that have many employees using robotic taxis and large sporting and entertainment events. This means that managing this is important and difficult. I’ve predicted that congested PuDo areas will have (or most likely contract with) a system that manages access to their PuDo spaces, and robotaxi operators will negotiate spaces at places when people are ready so there’s never any congestion. One day, when school children use a robotaxis, the same will be needed, since 75% of children in the US We already have traffic management, although nothing computerized.

A future robotaxi, when coming for PuDo, will request a time slot and location from the site manager’s server, and will only arrive when scheduled. Also, for pickup, an effort will be made to ensure that the passenger is or will be ready at the location for quick loading.

Waymo isn’t planning anything like this, at least not yet. His first efforts will be just to navigate the complex world of racing human-powered vehicles to do homework and learn what works. There is no other option: human drivers and robots must combine until the day comes when he can do more. Although there is no reason for human drivers to use an app, ie. Uber and Lyft drivers, but also humans with navigation apps, couldn’t work on a managed system. Today, drivers arriving at the airport to loiter and wait for their passenger are chased away by airport police, pushing people into “cell phone waiting” areas and lots. Uber drivers are often forced to use lots a long way from the airport, which again punishes them for various reasons.

Waymo’s increasing expansion suggests that they are now working to improve their expansion process. Some have been critical of the small service areas run by Waymo, Cruise and others. Doing the first service area is more likely to be extremely difficult, the second less difficult, and the tenth relatively easy. As the robot taxi craze of the 2020s progresses, we’ll see how well it works for gamers. Companies like Tesla

I hope to make a car that can suddenly drive everywhere at once, that never fails even in surprising situations in territory that has never been tested before. That’s a tall order, and most other companies plan to at least test each new territory, map and certify system security in that area before deploying. That’s more expensive, but having a crash due to a surprise that would have been obvious with a local testing process could be much more expensive.

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