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June 1, 2021

Why I Ride with Waymo: Ben & the Henderson Family

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Thumbnail: The biggest surprise has been the pace at which it has developed - both fast and slow! It is mind boggling to see how far it has come in a relatively short period. Ben, Waymo One Rider

Editor’s Note: In our next “Why I Ride with Waymo,” we catch up with the Henderson family. After moving to Phoenix in 2018, they quickly found a new mode of transportation, the Waymo Driver, when they signed up as part of our early rider program. Over the years, the Henderson family has experienced our technology transform and helped refine it through their great feedback.

Hi there, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

We are the Hendersons. We're a relatively eclectic crew who enjoy traveling, art, technology, architecture, science, and a bit of everything, really!

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

Our first fully autonomous ride wasn't really a shock or a surprise, as we'd watched the tech evolve through the early rider program. The feeling was mostly one of excitement as it finally came to fruition, living up to the expectations we'd developed over time.

Waymo has felt like a normal part of our daily life since moving to Chandler. Soon after the move, our kids started racing to be the first to sing out "Wayyymooo!" whenever they'd spot one (in a tone similar to Harry Belefonte's "Day-O" lyric from the Banana Boat song).

 If your first Rider-Only experience wasn’t a surprise, then what HAS been the biggest surprise?

The biggest surprise has been the pace at which it has developed--both fast and slow! It is mind boggling to see how far it has come in a relatively short period. My opinion has evolved from "it's ready, why don't they mass-release it now!?" to "Oh, wow, I didn't realize then how much better it could get; NOW it's ready."

Do you give feedback after your rides? What kinds?

Yes, my feedback used to consist of reporting wonky driving behavior such as hesitations, jerky movements, but as the Driver continually improves, there's not much to report anymore! Now, my feedback primarily focuses on suggesting future features or room for operational improvements, like shorter ETAs.

So what do you primarily use Waymo One for?

We enjoy taking family, friends, and coworkers for rides in Waymo One to help dispel misconceptions and fears that people have. They've all begun the ride skeptical but ended it as converts! It is amazing how quickly they become acclimated, comfortable, and then seemingly unimpressed.

How do you convert them? What would you say to someone who might be hesitant to get in a car with no human driver?

I would say -- and regularly do -- that human driving is rife with mistakes and danger. I remind people how much they glance at a phone, get drowsy, or are otherwise inattentive when behind the wheel. I remind them of what it feels like to drive at sunset. Then, I show them how the Waymo Driver sees when humans can't and explain how it never gets tired and doesn't have distractions. I also often remind them that they've been passengers on airliners controlled by far-less advanced systems for years.

What do you think the potential is for autonomous driving technology?

It is so much fun to chat with my kids about their thoughts and vision of what autonomous driving will do to change their lives as they become adults. We often discuss how many safety features and other advancements have improved vehicles' safety and usage through the decades. The only comparison we have for Waymo Driver-scale autonomous driving is the evolution from horse-and-buggy to automobiles!

It all comes back to safety. I always have a deep-down gut-wrenching fear of my children being taken from me by a preventable accident. Witnessing the Waymo Driver develop gives me hope that parents won't have to live with that fear forever. When I managed delivery vehicle fleets as part of my career, I would've loved the peace of mind that would come with a Waymo Driver operating my fleet.

Henderson family, thank you so much for chatting. Is there anything else you want to share about your experience with Waymo One?

Through Waymo One, I've found that I have a passion for autonomous driving. I feel so strongly about its marketability and potential in so many different aspects that I have evolved into a self-appointed autonomous driving missionary! The passion has caught me off-guard, but has been thoroughly enjoyable. Every day I see new and exciting possibilities for Waymo and look forward to watching and helping it come to fruition!