After many, many years of living in the moment and sometimes in the past, we are finally living in the future: the era of the self-driving car for regular people has arrived with the launch of Waymo One.

Well, almost. To hail a ride from the Google spin-off's autonomous fleet using the Waymo One app, you need to first be among the lucky few early riders that have access to it.

Those riders are also going to need to be based in the metro Phoenix area, the only place the service is currently operating. But eventually, the future of transportation might eventually reach your zip code, too.

The system works a lot like ridesharing apps Lyft and Uber, which have also been working on developing their own self-driving services. One of those experiments made news when a self-driving Uber was involved in a fatal accident in Tempe. 

Waymo One riders use an app to request a ride, set a safe pickup and drop-off location and get fare estimates. Once in the vehicle, however, it bares a resemblance to a more standardized taxi with an in-car console and screen that riders can use to connect to customer service to ask any questions. Of course, the app can also be used to make that connection as well. 

"These channels will become even more important as we transition to fully driverless rides," explains Waymo's introductory post on Medium. "At the start, Waymo-trained drivers will be riding along to supervise our vehicles for riders' comfort and convenience."

I know what you're wondering and yes, Waymo has already conducted test rides with early riders and driverless vehicles. You can see a few below:

Waymo One's vehicles can accommodate up to three adults and one child.

The timeline for when the actual general public might be able to hail a robot ride has not been released, but for now Waymo CEO John Krafcik says the early riders who will be using Waymo One to start number in the hundreds.

The company says these early beta testers will provide feedback that will be integrated into the next version of the service that the general public might get to try. 

Well, at least the general public in a very limited part of Arizona and maybe a few other places.

So maybe it's more accurate to say the future isn't quite here - it's more over there.

Published on: Dec 5, 2018