We know that driverless cars are coming. The question is when will they arrive for the public to use. Well, the day could be coming sooner than you think for residents of some of the world’s major cities.

In Phoenix, Arizona, the day already has arrived. Sort of.

As noted in this report (and demonstrated in the video below), the autonomous-driving company Waymo earlier this month deployed a test fleet of autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans in Phoenix and is allowing people there to try them out for free to get rides around the desert city. Riders only have to apply to be volunteer test passengers.

That video should be encouraging to watchers of driverless-vehicle technology, not to mention to folks who are growing older and are looking ahead to the eventual days when driving is no longer safe for them. This is a glimpse of a future when you’ll be able to get around town easily without getting behind the steering wheel.

Note that Waymo’s vision of this driverless future does not, most likely, mean that you’ll be commanding your own autonomous vehicle to pull out of the garage and drive you to the grocery store. The more probable future scenario is that you’ll summon a driverless car (or van) from a fleet of driverless vehicles, a la the Waymo Phoenix test fleet.

I’m not convinced that private ownership of driverless cars won’t be a big thing, but obviously the technology adds to the cost of a car, so in the early days of autonomous vehicles it will take a fat wallet to own one for strictly personal use. (Or you might purchase one but lease it out during times when you don’t need it, as I’ve previously noted.)

The driverless future is now. Almost.

Further reading:
The self-driving car is here … in 2017
November 10, 2017

Waymo’s fully self-driving vehicles are here
Medium – Waymo
November 7, 2017

What it’s like to live in Phoenix? “Waymo units all over the damn place”
Ars Technica
November 1, 2017

Top photo credit: Waymo