As Silicon Valley companies push further into driverless car technology dominance, Waymo is hoping to find its niche with the minivan set. The autonomous vehicle unit of Alphabet is expanding testing efforts by giving free rides to families and urban commuters in Phoenix.

The company will start accepting applications for passengers on Tuesday, marking the first public trial of its driverless program. Customers will be able to call cars with a special app at any time of day, and each vehicle will have a safety driver behind the wheel. Waymo told The Wall Street Journal this is an opportunity for the company to see how far people will go to replace their transportation.

"We're getting some sense ... that if we can figure out a way to get this right it could be persuasive for folks deciding whether they should add a second or third car to their garages," John Krafcik, head of Waymo and a former automotive industry executive, told the Journal.

Of course, Waymo has plenty of competition. Besides Uber, which is also making inroads with the technology, Amazon more than a year ago launched an in-house think tank to leverage autonomous vehicles for faster delivery. And, last week, Apple obtained a permit to test-drive three driverless cars in California.