Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo took a big step forward last fall when it began ferrying riders around the Phoenix area in robotaxis without human safety drivers. Humans have been behind the wheel for almost all of the 20 million miles of testing the company says it’s completed on public roads.
The driverless rides in Arizona don’t mean the end for Waymo’s human operators. Last summer, the company quietly finalized a multiyear contract with Transdev North America, which provides bus drivers, streetcar conductors and other transportation workers to airports and cities. The partnership is an acknowledgement that Waymo will be relying on test drivers for many years to come.