Waymo just laid out its vision for a driverless future

A Waymo driverless car in Chandler, Arizona.
A Waymo driverless car in Chandler, Arizona.
Image: Reuters/Natalie Behring
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Waymo, the driverless car company of Google’s parent, Alphabet, announced today it’s partnering with companies like Walmart and commercial real estate firm DDR Corp. to integrate its driverless cars into Phoenix residents’ daily shopping and dining, according to a company blog post.

Through these partnerships, Waymo is making a pitch for how a city could function if driverless cars become a mainstream reality: Instead of driving to Walmart, the mall, or office, just summon a driverless car to drive you, and save some money on your groceries as well.

Waymo became its own company under Alphabet in 2016. The company has turned its core autonomous driving technology into a ride-sharing service, pitting it against rivals like Uber and Lyft, which are exploring their own self-driving technologies. Phoenix has become a prime spot for testing these cars, with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey courting the tech companies to set up shop in his state.

Starting later this week, Waymo cars will bring Phoenix residents signed up to be “early riders” to Walmart to pick up groceries ordered online, as well as to a shopping center and restaurants owned by DDR Corp. As an incentive, Walmart groceries ordered through this process will be discounted. Waymo has also partnered with Element Hotels to help people staying at the hotel for business commute to their offices. Early riders call the driverless car with an app on their phone.

It’s also an indicator of how the autonomous car company can make money in the future: All five partner companies, including previously announced contracts with Avis and AutoNation, are paying Waymo for customers to use its service, a Waymo spokesperson told Quartz in an email. Walmart declined to discuss details of the contract, while DRR Corp. and Element Hotels did not immediately respond to an inquiry

Each of these partner companies has a nation-wide footprint, and Waymo acknowledges in its blog post that these partners will expand with Waymo as it enters more cities.