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November 30, 2018

Why I Ride with Waymo: Alex

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Editor’s Note: As part of our “Why I Ride with Waymo” series, we’ve been checking in with early riders (like Lilla and Samantha) to learn more about their experiences with Waymo. Today, Alex shares some of his favorite Waymo moments with us.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Alex Hoffman, and I live in Mesa, Arizona with my wife and two kids, a 7 year old daughter and a 2 year old son. I work in Tempe as a cybersecurity engineer.

How did you find out about the early rider program? What inspired you to join it?

I just moved to the Phoenix earlier this year and saw all the Waymo vehicles driving around town and thought “I have to try these!” I’m a self-proclaimed tech nerd and always looking to be part of the latest and greatest technology.

What do you primarily use Waymo for?

My office is in Waymo’s service area, so I mainly use it to go out to lunch during the work day or to run errands. A few of my coworkers are early riders too, so we can all go together without fighting over who has to drive. That’s the best thing for me because I have an electric car, and there aren’t too many chargers at my office, so it’s awesome to be able to leave my car and not lose my charging spot.

What was your first ride like? When did it start to feel like a normal part of your daily life?

My first ride was definitely the most memorable. I was grinning ear to ear and loved watching everything for the first time, especially the steering wheel move by itself. It’s still exciting even today. When I’m riding, I like seeing how the car thinks and what it’s detecting. I try to figure out what’s going on through the computer’s mind when it makes every decision.

What is something you like best about riding with Waymo?

For me, it comes down to trust. Unlike with other drivers, I know that this driver has millions of miles of driving experience and will always do the safest thing. I also know the cars will always be clean and that I’m getting the same experience every time. And, then there’s the “cool factor” of showing up in a self-driving car!

Waymo’s driver, like human drivers, has a bit of a personality. What have you noticed about the way our car drives or the personality our cars have?

Waymo drives the way you would if you were picking up your mom at the airport. You have to be cautious enough to not make her yell at you, but assertive enough to navigate through airport traffic and get where you’re going.

What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to you while riding in a Waymo? Has our car ever performed in a way that you didn’t expect but it ended up being the safest move?
One time there was a big trash bag in the middle of the road and the car slammed on the brakes. At first, I was confused because if someone was behind us, we could have caused a crash. But then I realized that there were cars on either side of us, but no one behind us. Instead of swerving, which is probably what I would have done, the car was able to see that the safest thing to do was stop and avoid moving into the other busy lanes.

Do you give feedback after your rides? What kinds?

I leave notes on almost every ride. As someone who’s worked in tech, I understand how important beta feedback is.

During the first three rides I took to my office, the car stopped turning into the office driveway and seemed confused by a large bush sticking out on the corner. I gave feedback each time, and by the fourth time, the car went around it with no problem. It’s cool to see my comments being integrated into the technology.

What do you think the potential is for self-driving cars?

I’m really optimistic and see a ton of potential for self-driving cars to make the roads safer, especially for my kids. I just took my daughter on her first ride and couldn’t help but think about how normal this will become in her lifetime. I’m excited that they’ll get to grow up in a world where the roads will be a little bit safer thanks to self-driving technology.

Our early rider program continues to take applications; if you live in the area, drop us a line.