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Waymo is Offering Free WiFi in its Robo-Taxis to Lure in Riders

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【Summary】Waymo is testing complimentary Wi-Fi in its autonomous taxis in the Phoenix area where it is currently testing its Waymo One service.

Eric Walz    Jul 08, 2019 1:53 PM PT
Waymo is Offering Free WiFi in its Robo-Taxis to Lure in Riders
Waymo is using a fleet of autonomous driving Chrysler minivans for its Waymo One robo-taxi service in Arizona.

Waymo, the self-driving car division the sprung from Google's self-driving car project, is hoping to lure riders into its robotaxis with additional perks, including free Wi-Fi.

Reuters reports that Waymo is testing complimentary Wi-Fi in its autonomous taxis in the Phoenix area where it is currently testing its Waymo One service. The company's fleet autonomous taxis have been carrying paying passengers since December. 

Waymo declined to disclose when Wi-Fi testing began, its internet speeds or its service providers. The company did say however that its network has no usage restrictions and that any data it collects from passengers is governed by Google's general privacy policy.

The free Wi-Fi access, which has not been previously reported, is available to a select group of riders that get to try out new features. However, they are restricted by Waymo from talking publicly about their experience. Two riders told Reuters they first noticed laminated fliers with Wi-Fi instructions in vans in April.

Waymo is betting that free WiFi and other perks will lure riders who might otherwise summon a ride from Uber or Lyft. In April, Waymo previously launched ad-free music streaming for passengers through its Google Play Music app. 

For parents of young children, Waymo installed a child car seat in each of its autonomous taxis and also ensures vehicles arrive cooled to a precise 72 degrees in Arizona's desert heat.

Waymo is hoping to persuade passengers that the company's ride service is less stressful and more convenient than driving their own cars or riding with competitors. Waymo says that it self-driving technology is also much safer than a human driver.

Eliminating human drivers would also slash Waymo's operating costs, something that ride-hailing giant Uber is counting on as well after its April IPO. In addition, Waymo's robotaxis are less costly to operate without human drivers and may allow the company to charge lower fares that Uber and still turn a profit.

Wall Street investment analysts have estimated Waymo's value at more than $100 billion, assuming that its in-car services generate revenue. 

"Whether you want to catch up on emails or jam out to some of your favorite tunes using our music integration, we encourage riders to make this space their own," spokeswoman Julianne McGoldrick said.

Waymo's autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans currently serve a 100-square-mile area near Phoenix. More than 1,000 users are participating in Waymo's "Early Rider Program" the largest autonomous on-demand ride-hailing service of its kind in the U.S. Riders summon a ride in one of the company's autonomous taxis using Waymo's smartphone app.

Waymo plans to expand its autonomous taxi service to other cities including Austin, Texas and Mountain View, California.

The free Wi-Fi may one day be used for add-on services that generate additional revenue for Waymo. Combined with other perks, Waymo is looking to provide the best customer experience while riding in one of its autonomous vehicles.

"Those who win this space are going to have the most convenient solution and the best experience," said Mark Boyadjis to Reuters, a global auto technology lead at research firm IHS Markit.



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