Waymo is now offering a novel way for select riders to reach Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport – by robotaxi. The company, which launched the first paid autonomous vehicle service in the U.S. in November 2022, has expanded its service to include curbside pickups and drop-offs at the busy airport.
In the past, Waymo’s robotaxis transported passengers to an airport shuttle stop at the 44th Street Sky Train station. Now, they will have to navigate the bustling curbs of the terminal, a new challenge for the company. In order to ensure a safe deployment and learn from the experience, the service will initially only be available from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. at Terminals 3 and 4.
According to Waymo, the company has already completed “tens of thousands” of airport trips and is currently servicing over a thousand rides per week. Impressively, the average rating for these trips has been 4.7 out of 5 stars, a testament to the reliability and convenience of Waymo’s service.
The expansion of Waymo’s robotaxi service at the airport comes at a time when its former competitor, Cruise, is facing challenges. After an October 2nd incident involving a pedestrian, Cruise has been forced to lay off 25% of its staff and replace a number of executives.
Unlike other robotaxi services, Waymo’s airport rides will be fully autonomous, with no human safety operator behind the wheel. However, this service is currently only available to a select group of active riders in Phoenix, rather than just trusted testers who have been vetted and have signed non-disclosure agreements. Waymo plans to eventually open this service to all riders and expand to offering 24/7 service after gaining more experience at the airport.
“Last year, we partnered with Waymo to become the first airport in the world to offer travelers the ability to take an autonomous vehicle to the airport,” said Chad Makovsky, aviation director at Sky Harbor Airport, in a statement. “This partnership has allowed us to develop confidence in the technology, and we’re excited to take the next step and safely expand this innovative service to our terminal curbs.”
It’s clear that this partnership between Waymo and Sky Harbor Airport is mutually beneficial. Not only does the airport provide a new and convenient destination for Waymo’s robotaxis, but Waymo’s presence allows the airport to build trust in this new technology and push boundaries in autonomous transportation.