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Free rides offered by Alphabet's Waymo autonomous cars


Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google parent Alphabet is offering free rides to residents in Arizona as it accelerates efforts to bring autonomous vehicles to the public.

The rebranded Google car division Waymo has announced it is taking applications to be part of its "early rider" programme in Phoenix, the capital of the US state, and its suburbs.

"We'll be accepting hundreds of people with diverse backgrounds and transportation needs who want to ride in and give feedback about Waymo's self-driving cars," said Waymo chief executive John Krafcik.

"The goal of this program is to give participants access to our fleet every day, at any time, to go anywhere within an area that's about twice the size of San Francisco."

Krafcik said as part of the trial Waymo was adding 500 hybrid minivans to its Arizona fleet -- which began with 100 vehicles -- as the group edges toward a ridesharing system similar to those offered by Uber, Lyft and others.

"We want as many people as possible to experience our technology, and we want to bring self-driving cars to more communities sooner," he said.

"Our early riders will play an important role in shaping the way we bring self-driving technology into the world -- through personal cars, public transportation, ride-hailing, logistics and more."

The tech giant has conducted extensive testing of the Google car, but in recent months has been working to adapt its software to operate on other vehicles -- using Chrysler Pacifica cars in Arizona.

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Chrysler's parent company FCA, said the collaboration "has been advantageous for both companies as we continue to work together to fully understand the steps needed to bring self-driving vehicles to market."

Waymo stated it has been quietly conducting a small-scale trial over the past month in the Phoenix area, taking participants to work, school, soccer practices and other activities.

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