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Waymo and Valley Metro team up to connect commuters with public transportation

Posted at 7:42 PM, Jul 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-31 22:42:34-04

You'd think they'd be competitors. A public transportation agency and a ride-hailing service.

"We are in a position where we hope our technology can enable people to use public transportation and actually increase the reach of it," said Shaun Stewart, Chief Business Development Officer for Waymo

In the coming days, some Valley Metro workers can start getting to work by taking a driverless Waymo car to a bus or light rail stop. For now, it will only available to Valley Metro workers who live in parts of the east Valley.  

"There will be someone in the car to make sure things go well and also to collect information and to assist," said Valley Metro CEO Scott Smith.

It's a big step for a company in an industry that was thrown under the microscope in the Valley this year. After a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a homeless woman in Tempe in March, Uber pulled the plug on its program here. 

But the head of Valley Metro said he has complete confidence in Waymo's program. 

"We would not have proceeded with this if we weren't confident we were providing a very safe environment," said Smith.

The next phase of the pilot program includes Valley Metro riders.

"We're going to expand it to the general public," said Smith. "First in an environment called RideChoice which is a service we provide that's a taxi voucher system."

RideChoice is a subsidized program used primarily by seniors and people with disabilities. 

Waymo's chief business development officer says it may seem like 100-percent driverless cars are just around the corner, but they're not.

"I think it's a long time before it becomes mainstream," he said. "The difference is we started here in Phoenix so you are going to see the forefront of progress here in the Phoenix region."

Waymo did not give a timeline on when phase two of the program would start.