Alphabet’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) self-driving car company Waymo is adding new amenities to entice riders to use its self-driving taxis. Since December, hundreds of the company’s identical, driverless Chrysler Pacifica minivans have been carrying paying riders around a 100-square-mile territory around Phoenix in a wide-ranging trial of the service. More than 1,000 users are participating in the trial, the largest of its kind in the nation.
Waymo said all riders can play ad-free music through the minivan’s speakers without fees. Riders can select among eight playlists on seatback touchscreens or tap “I’m feeling lucky” to hear a different collection of songs. In late April, Waymo launched ad-free music streaming for passengers through Google Play Music. That give passengers the ability to listen to playlists that they have created.
The identical set-up of each van, which can seat three adults and two kids, has proved appealing to passengers. Waymo has installed a child car seat in the back row in every minivan and a booster seat is nearby if needed. The company also ensures vehicles arrive cooled to a precise 72 degrees. As one rider participating in the trial said, “When I push the Waymo button, I know exactly the product I’m buying.”
Waymo’s challenge is to prove that hospitality and connectivity can generate profits in a money-losing industry. The company currently charges rates comparable to Uber and Lyft. Wall Street investment analysts have estimated Waymo’s current value at more than $100 billion.