In Chandler, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, Waymo's fleet of 600 minivans shuttling people from place to place. Ordering one feels almost exactly like calling a Lyft or Uber, except for one thing: the vans drive themselves. Alphabet's Waymo has been testing self-driving vehicles in Arizona since 2017 and we got a look at what it's like.

Alphabet’s self-driving car company Waymo has built the world’s smartest vehicles with access to the world’s best artificial intelligence, but there’s one barrier that it might have underestimated: people.

In the last few months, the company has gained regulatory approvals, improved its driving systems using Alphabet’a AI assets and partnered with other auto manufacturers. Its cars have driven more miles than any other company’s.

But the community closest to Waymo’s main testing grounds in Phoenix, Arizona, said that the human element remains complicated, from hiring more drivers and support staff to working with city officials and emergency response staff.

CNBC visited Phoenix to check out Waymo’s progress earlier this month, weeks after the company launched its first actual business, Waymo One, a commercial robotaxi service in the Phoenix area. Meanwhile, competitors like Uber, Tesla and General Motors subsidiary Cruise are all planning their own self-driving car technology in a market estimated to garner $556.67 billion by 2026.

Advertisement
Code: d88362. 12% OFF Coupon for Sports Action Cameras

More videos