Waymo Self-Driving CarSource: Waymo

What you need to know

  • Waymo says it's suspending its taxi service to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
  • The exception to this rule will be the company's fully driverless vehicles, which will keep operating for now.
  • The move comes after signs of unrest among its drivers about having to continue working despite the increasing risk of infection.

As the coronavirus infection grips the nation and the world, ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber have been taking measures to reduce human contact via their services. Their upstart, driverless competitor, Waymo, on the other hand, is shutting its services almost entirely.

A new blog post by the company reads, "We're pausing our Waymo One service with trained drivers in Metro Phoenix for now." The Alphabet subsidiary's doing the same with its trials in California. Though the company's cars can drive themselves, most of its rides still require a trained driver to be in the car in order to avoid potential catastrophes.

That's become increasingly riskier, however, because of the possibility of viral transmission between safety drivers and passengers. Just last week, a driver refused to pick up a passenger from Intel's Chandler offices after hearing of a confirmed case at the company.

The exception to this rule will be Waymo's early rider program, which allows more experienced customers to ride in a fully driverless vehicle. The company hopes that the lack of a driver in the car will reduce the risk of infection, though it is also promising to sanitize the vehicles multiple times throughout the day (via TechCrunch).

Its delivery and trucking service will similarly continue operating.