Chandler employees to use self-driving cars for work rides

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FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2016, file photo, the Waymo driverless car is displayed during a Google event in San Francisco. Dozens of city employees in Chandler, Ariz., will be able to use self-driving vehicles at work in partnership with Waymo, an autonomous vehicle company. The Arizona Republic reports on July 1, 2019, the partnership will begin this month as the Arizona city evaluates whether use of the autonomous vehicles cut costs to maintain and operate its vehicle fleet and boosts employee productivity. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

CHANDLER, Ariz. (AP) Dozens of city employees in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler will use self-driving vehicles at work in partnership with Waymo, an autonomous vehicle company.

The partnership will begin this month as Chandler evaluates whether using the autonomous vehicles cuts costs to maintain and operate its vehicle fleet and makes employees more productive, The Arizona Republic reported .

Officials say the program will last at least a year.

Chandler has been a leader on testing autonomous vehicles in metro Phoenix. Waymo, formerly known as the Google self-driving car project, has been testing its autonomous vehicles in the area since 2016. Waymo has an operations center in Chandler and is opening a technical service center in Mesa this year.

The partnership will let employees use the Waymo app to schedule rides to work meetings within the company's service area. The rides will be charged to employees' purchasing cards, the city said.

"We've worked closely with Waymo for the past several years, and it's a natural progression to utilize their technology," Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke said. "We're proud to have another innovative first with this partnership to explore increased productivity and cost savings related to our motor pool fleet."

Several dozen employees will participate, but Waymo says it wants the program to keep growing.

"We're thrilled that city employees will now be able to ride in Waymo vehicles to get around for work," said Dezbah Hatathli, policy and community manager for Waymo in Chandler. "Our hope is that this collaboration allows the city to realize its goal of reducing its vehicle fleet and lowering costs."

The Waymo partnership is the first of its kind with a city government but not the company's first partnership with a government in metro Phoenix, the newspaper reported.

Valley Metro and Waymo teamed up last year to get transit riders from their houses or workplaces to the nearest light rail or bus station. The two-year pilot program began with a controlled group of Valley Metro and Phoenix employees.

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