Select Waymo One riders can now get picked up or dropped off by the company’s robotaxis curbside at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Waymo became the first autonomous vehicle operator in the U.S. to launch a paid robotaxi service to and from the airport in November 2022. The service went to an airport shuttle stop at the 44th Street Sky Train station. Navigating the hectic crush of the terminal curbs will be a whole new challenge, but Waymo is starting out with limited hours, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and only at Terminals 3 and 4, in order to safely deploy and learn.
Waymo has already completed “tens of thousands of airport trips to date” and is serving over a thousand rides each week, according to the company. The average trip rating for its airport trips has been about 4.7 out of 5 stars, Waymo says.
The expansion of Waymo’s airport service comes as its erstwhile competitor Cruise lays off nearly a quarter of its staff and dismisses a handful of executives in the aftermath of an October 2 incident that left a pedestrian stuck under and then dragged by one of its robotaxis.
Waymo’s new airport service, which is fully autonomous (meaning no human safety operator behind the wheel) will only be available to “a select cohort of active riders in Phoenix, not necessarily or exclusively to trusted testers,” Chris Bonelli, product communications manager at Waymo, told TechCrunch. Waymo’s trusted testers are riders who have been vetted by the company and have historically signed nondisclosure agreements. Waymo says it has lifted the NDA requirement across the board this year.
The Alphabet-owned company intends to open these pickup locations to all its riders and expand to 24/7 service in “the coming months” as it gains more experience at the terminals.
“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.”