You could be forgiven for thinking this was already a thing, but Waymo’s self-driving taxis are reportedly starting to be equipped with free Wi-Fi for passengers. Yes, the subsidiary of internet giant Alphabet apparently didn’t already have the technology. This, despite Google’s autonomous vehicles each requiring a huge data pipe to the cloud for self-driving purposes.
That’s according to Reuters, which reports that complimentary high-speed connectivity is being tested in the company’s fleet of Waymo One AV taxis in metropolitan Phoenix, where the company counts around 1,000 participating users.
Much of the promise of self-driving vehicles has been the idea that not needing to keep one’s hands on the wheel will enable the recovery of personal time for enhanced leisure or work — activities like streaming the latest episode of Stranger Things or working on next week’s PowerPoint presentation. Therefore, it’s rather surprising that Wi-Fi apparently hasn’t been offered until now.
According to Reuters, at the moment, Wi-Fi connectivity is only available to select users who beta-test new features. These customers are barred from discussing their ridership experiences, but word of this change has evidently still slipped out.
Waymo has steadily been adding customer conveniences to its self-driving fleet, including Google Play Music streaming audio back in April. It even offers child seats in each of its minivans.
Alphabet launched Waymo One as a paid service rather quietly back in December, and it has been steadily ramping up its operations, even as both the auto and tech industries have been tamping down previously optimistic timelines about widespread AV deployment.
Earlier in July, Waymo became just the fourth company to be granted California’s Autonomous Vehicle Pilot permit, but for the moment, it’s only offering paid customer rides in Arizona. Waymo has had a California AV testing permit since 2014, and it operates a sizable fleet of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans and Jaguar I-Pace electric crossover SUVs, which have been upfitted with robotaxi hardware.
In April, Waymo One expanded its autonomous shuttle service in a partnership deal with ride-hailing staple Lyft — one of the services that has been viewed as a Waymo rival.
Waymo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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