Tag Archives: Service

American Airlines CEO Says Customer Service Isn't the Priority (Have a Guess What Is)
November 25, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Consistently, the airline has become a symbol of too many things that are wrong with air travel.

It’s managed to put itself in a We Don’t Really Care About Passengers corner. 

It seems to find it hard to emerge from that.

In a conversation with employees reported by View From The Wing’s Gary Leff, an American pilot told Parker that there seems to be a reluctance to offer customer service to passengers, even when the flight won’t be leaving on time.

He told the story of a connecting customer who said they’d left their phone and laptop on a flight and no American employee wanted to help. 

They’re all told, you see, that the priority is the so-called D0, the determination to push back on time to the detriment, some might say, of customer service.

You know, those little things like the pre-flight drinks the more exalted customers adore.

Parker offered these extremely honest and revealing words: 

The most important thing to customers is that we deliver on our commitment to leave on time and get them to the destination as they have scheduled.

But isn’t pushing back on time just one aspect of a greater good? That the customer should feel good on your airline and want to come back.

This, it strikes me, has been American’s singular difficulty of late.

I can’t remember whether the flight pushed back on time. I do remember, however, her strained and abject attempts to provide the minimum customer service she could.

The consequence, for me at least, has been to avoid American and choose other airlines. 

Am I alone in reacting this way?

I used to fly American a lot. I used to actively choose it because it flew bigger planes from San Francisco to New York and seemed a good enough airline.

Parker is right that customers want to get to their destination on time. But isn’t it a little like restaurant customers who say they want good food?

If they get cold, disinterested service, I suspect many will happily give up the food for a restaurant that makes them feel good.

A greater difficulty for Parker is that there are airlines that are admired for their customer service and their reliable approach to arriving on time.

Delta, for example, seems to manage this rather well. Despite flying some tatty old planes. 

Perhaps the real problem is that Parker transposes his own beliefs about what should be important into his customers.

He wants the focus to be on-time departure because he believes the airline will make more money that way.

If the planes are always on time, the system rolls along nicely and there are no unexpected costs.

Which reminds me of a T-shirt I used to wear, a long time ago. On it, a woman looks up at her lover and explains: “There’s more to life than snogging, Barry.”

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Israeli minister urges Airbnb boycott, talks up rival service
November 21, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli cabinet minister called on Wednesday for a boycott of Airbnb and promoted one of its rivals, escalating the government’s response to the home-rental company’s decision to delist Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank.

A woman talks on the phone at the Airbnb office headquarters in the SOMA district of San Francisco, California, U.S., August 2, 2016. REUTERS/Gabrielle Lurie

“I call today on all those who support Israel and oppose discriminatory boycotts: they should cease using Airbnb and turn to other services,” Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan told a diplomatic conference hosted by the Jerusalem Post newspaper.

“By the way, Booking.com is a great service,” added Erdan, the point-man in Israeli government efforts to combat pro-Palestinian boycotts.

Airbnb said on Monday it would remove some 200 settlement listings after hearing criticism from people who “believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced”.

Palestinians who want to establish an independent state taking in the West Bank have welcomed the San Francisco-based firm’s move. It does not apply to East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, other territories Israel captured in a 1967 war but which Israel has annexed, unlike the West Bank.

“Airbnb took a decision in the right direction to stop dealings with Israeli settlements, consistent with international legitimacy,” Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior official with the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation, told Reuters.

“Erdan’s incitement comes in the course of continued attempts by the Israeli extremist government to intimidate companies, parties and individuals who try to try to take good decisions that agree with international resolutions.”

    Human Rights Watch hailed Airbnb’s decision and, in a report on Tuesday, called on Booking.com to follow suit.

Booking.com and Airbnb did not immediately respond to Reuters emails seeking fresh comment.

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, addressing Wednesday’s conference separately, backed Erdan’s call to boycott Airbnb and suggested Israel also deploy its own anti-discrimination laws.

Israel has said it would turn to the Trump administration and could back lawsuits against Airbnb within U.S. states that have legislated against anti-Israel boycotts.

In Israel, one 2017 law empowers courts to award cash compensation to claimants who prove they have been denied goods or services because of where they live.

“I checked yesterday with my office, with the attorney-general, whether we can operate this law, and the answer is positive,” Shaked said. “We need to do anything we can in order to fight them back in order that they will change their decision.”

Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Peter Graff

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Facebook rolls out Watch video service internationally
August 29, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

LONDON (Reuters) – Facebook is rolling out its Watch video service globally one year after it launched in the United States with original entertainment news and sports content to compete with platforms like Alphabet Inc’s YouTube.

FILE PHOTO: People are silhouetted as they pose with mobile devices in front of a screen projected with a Facebook logo, in this picture illustration October 29, 2014. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File photo

Facebook’s Head of Video Fidji Simo said Watch was gaining real momentum in a crowded marketplace because it was built on the notion that watching videos could be a social activity.

“Every month more than 50 million people in the U.S. come to watch videos for at least a minute on Watch, and total time spent watching video on Facebook Watch has increased by 14 times since the start of 2018,” she told reporters.

“With Watch … you can have a two-way conversation about the content with friends, other fans or even the creatives themselves.”

Facebook said eligible creators would be able to make money from their videos using its Ad Breaks service in Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand as well as the United States from Thursday, with many more countries set to follow.

Simo said publishers were making “meaningful revenues” from its automated video advertising system on the platform, which has featured shows such as beauty mogul Huda Kattan’s “Huda Boss” and live “Major League Baseball” games.

“We know it’s been a long road but we’ve worked hard to ensure that the Ad Breaks experience is a good one for both our partners and our community,” she said.

Ad revenue will be split 55 percent for the content creator and 45 percent for Facebook, the same ratio as in the United States, Simo said.

Publishers need to have created three-minute videos that have generated more than 30,000 one-minute views in total over the past two months and must have 10,000 followers to participate in Ad Breaks, Facebook said.

Simo said Facebook was working on a variety of other options for creators to make money, such as branded content and the ability for fans to directly support their favorite creators through subscriptions.

“(Fan subscription) is something that is rolled out to a few creators now, but we are planning on expanding that program soon,” she said.

Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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Meal delivery service DoorDash hires Uber finance head as CFO
July 19, 2018 6:58 pm|Comments (0)

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Meal delivery service DoorDash Inc has hired Uber Technologies Inc’s head of finance to be its chief financial officer, which could put the startup closer to an initial public offering and deals another executive loss to Uber.

Tony Xu, CEO and Co-founder of DoorDash, speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt event in Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., May 11, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid –

Before Uber, Prabir Adarkar, the new Doordash CFO, worked on deals at Goldman Sachs (GS.N), a bank that frequently leads IPOs for Silicon Valley technology companies.

Tony Xu, co-founder and chief executive officer of DoorDash, said on Thursday that he selected Adarkar for his “sharp mind” and leadership skills.

Adarkar had been head of strategic finance for Uber since 2015, and as the most senior finance executive lead a team of more than 500 employees. His departure leaves yet another vacancy for the ride-services company, which has been without a chief financial officer for three years.

In a statement, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi praised Adarkar for “improving financial controls to putting the company on a path to profitability.”

At a technology conference in Aspen, Colorado, this week, Khosrowshahi also lamented that his company’s CFO search “is taking longer than I’d like.”

“We have terrific candidates,” Khosrowshahi said at the conference, adding that he’s looking for a CFO who will stay beyond Uber’s initial public offering, planned for next year.

Reporting by Heather Somerville; Editing by Leslie Adler and Jeffrey Benkoe

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Messaging For Customer Service: Bozeman Startup Quiq Brings Its Tech To Office Depot, Overstock.com
July 14, 2018 6:49 am|Comments (0)

Things have been looking up for customers of Office Depot since last year, when the commercial-messaging startup, Quiq, came to their rescue. According to Mike Myer, Quiq’s founder and CEO, Office Depot customers no longer have to call or fill out an online inquiry form to find out, say, what a particular location has in stock or the status of an existing order. Today, that customer can send a text and have it answered by a helpful Office Depot employee almost immediately. (The first text reply generally gets to the customer within a minute, and the entire back-and-forth is usually completed in less than ten).

Office Depot (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Skiers in Jackson Hole are in luck as well, says Myer, who spoke to me from Quiq’s offices, located in the improbably booming tech hub of Bozeman, MT. Wondering about snow conditions or tram hours? All that’s needed is to text the resort for an immediate and up-to-the-minute response. For the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Company, whose entire customer base is a certifiably mobile-only whenever they’re on or headed toward the slopes, this makes a lot more sense, Myer tells me, than a desktop- and email-based support approach.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Gondola. (Photo by Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

Overstock.com has also recently implemented Quiq’s solution and is now providing up-to-the minute order information via text. According to Overstock, the most quantifiable “aha” they’ve enjoyed from the new approach is the open rate: 98% for text messages as opposed to “in the single digits” for email.

Micah Solomon, Forbes.com: Tell me what Quiq is and what makes it special.

Mike Meyer, CEO and Founder, Quiq: Quiq is a company in Bozeman Montana that’s focused on making people’s lives easier. You, me and nearly all the consumers out there lead a digital-first lifestyle, where we are always connected. People love text messaging (SMS, Facebook Messenger, Apple Business Chat, Web chat, etc.) because it’s convenient and fits in with the crazy pace of our lives. By bringing text to business communication, Quiq makes it as easy to talk with companies as it is with friends.

No one likes to make phone calls (let alone to customer service!) and waiting for an email response is like waiting for paint to dry. Messaging is also more efficient for companies since one agent can serve multiple customers concurrently, unlike phone calls, and there’s no seemingly endless back and forth with to solve even a single issue, like there can be with email.

Who are some of Quiq’s marquee clients?

Pier 1, Brink’s Home Security, Tailored Brands (Men’s Wearhouse, Joseph A. Bank), Overstock, Office Depot, Tile, Insikt, and about 80 other great companies.

If my readers want to see your technology in action, where can they look?

Here’s an example they can see for themselves. Go to http://officedepot.com on your mobile phone, you’ll see a Text Us link right next to the phone number at the bottom of the page, which is powered by Quiq. If you were to have a question about a product or order with Office Depot, all you have to do is use that link to get assistance.

There’s a lot of excitement (and apprehension) about AI and chatbots. Your solution takes a different tack. Is this a philosophical choice on your part, a practical one, or both? Tell me your thoughts here. 

The hype curve for AI and chatbots is nearing the apex. But I wouldn’t say that these technologies are much help by themselves to true customer service at the moment. Most consumers (me included) can’t point to a satisfying interaction they’ve had with a chatbot that has solved a true, actual customer service issue. Getting the weather from Alexa is perfectly suited for a chatbot. Checking payment status or getting account info is harder, but within chatbot capabilities. Getting an actual customer service issue that requires troubleshooting resolved is orders of magnitude harder.

Quiq is in a great place at a great time because our success isn’t dependent upon how fast AI research is able to solve the chatbot problem. There is a ton of ROI and customer satisfaction to be gained from just adding messaging into existing contact centers with human agents serving customers via text messaging.

This doesn’t mean that I’m opposed to AI and chatbots, when properly deployed  I think where they excite me most is in the realm of “bot fusion”: the fusion of chatbots and human agents. A lot of people think about chatbots as first handling the conversation and then passing it to a human if the bot can’t handle it. But we think that agents and bots can work together. There may be a specific dialog that a bot can handle during a conversation between the agent and customer. For instance, identity verification or return address confirmation. If the bot gets confused in its task, it can tap the agent for help. The fusion is the seamless transition of the conversation back and forth between the human agent and their bot assistant without the customer’s awareness.

What role will telephone and email support have in the contact center of the future?

In the future, I believe the majority of interactions in the contact center will be messaging, rather than phone or email. Frankly, I don’t see a need for email to continue to be offered for much longer as a channel in the contact center, since it is so prone to laggy, circular conversations. The phone will still have a place but only in a minority of interactions, and even these will likely start with messaging. Why will the phone still have value? Because there are, and will continue to be, situations in which the consumer wants to be solely focused on troubleshooting a problem. In these cases, speaking is likely to continue to be more efficient than typing. But, the voice conversation will be multimedia, meaning that the agent and customer will be able to text back and forth and view images and video at the same time that they’re on the phone call.

Any advice  you can share for other entrepreneurs?   

The biggest challenge for entrepreneurs is finding and hiring the right people who can stand side-by-side to build a business from the ground up. It isn’t easy work. My advice for entrepreneurs is 1) find a great market opportunity, 2) hire amazing people, and 3) set the direction. Then, get out of the way and let the magic happen!

What about working with investors and partners?

When working with investors and partners, you need to make sure you keep your focus. While investors and partners are important, they’re not building your product and they are not the ones buying it, so be sure to allocate focus to them in the appropriate proportion.

What is the competitive landscape for Quiq?

We think about our competitive landscape in three broad buckets: 1) legacy chat vendors, 2) CRM vendors with a messaging option, and 3) social vendors adding messaging. Quiq is the first messaging platform built from scratch for asynchronous messaging, as opposed to adding messaging onto their synchronous systems.

[Author’s Note: LivePerson’s messaging solution, LiveEngage, was also built from the ground up for asynchronous communications, to the best of my knowledge. Read about LiveEngage in my previous article.]

Our goal isn’t to displace existing CRM or customer support systems.  Quiq integrates seamlessly with Salesforce, Zendesk, Oracle and internal systems.  So, we’re only competing against other messaging solutions, not the incumbent systems.

Live Content: Keynote Speaker Micah Solomon on Customer Service, Customer Experience, Company CultureMicah Solomon

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Uber tests cheaper 'Hurry Hurry' service for errands in Nairobi
February 12, 2018 6:08 pm|Comments (0)

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Uber is testing a service in Nairobi that was inspired by residents’ use of the platform for errands and aims to tap into a new segment of the city’s active ride-hailing market, a regional executive said on Monday.

Amid the minibuses, safari 4x4s, taxis and Ubers on the roads of Kenya’s capital, tiny, boxy Suzuki (7269.T) Altos are popping up. They are emblazoned with stickers reading “Uber Chap Chap”, and a slogan in Kiswahili that translates as “Arrive Faster, Save Money”.

That offer is exactly why 24-year-old lawyer Brian Mwirigi said he clicked the new “Chap Chap” option on his Uber app last week when he noticed that his short trip to deliver documents to a client would cost 100 Kenyan shillings ($ 1) less than with the standard “uberX”.

“It was a bit cramped, but for the price you’re paying, it doesn’t really matter,” he said, adding that he intends to use Chap Chap for trips downtown and in adjacent neighborhoods where it is available during the pilot.

Nairobians such as Mwirigi, who looks for a bargain when hailing a ride on his phone and will shop around, are one of the targets of Chap Chap, Uber’s East Africa general manager Loic Amado said in an interview.

“It’s about giving people choices,” he said. “Kenyans specifically are very open to adapting to new things and are very creative in using Uber for different things.”

The test phase began three weeks ago. More than 200 Altos have hit the roads.

Kenya is Uber’s second-largest market in sub-Saharan Africa, after South Africa. It competes against its global rival Taxify, which has gained popularity in Nairobi in the past year but does not disclose numbers of active riders and users. The Kenyan app Little said in September it has close to the 5,000 drivers that Uber boasts.

Nairobi is the first city in Africa in which Uber has piloted the low-cost, quick-trip option using small, brand-new vehicles.

If the positive response is sustained, he said, Uber will consider introducing Chap Chap across Nairobi and in the capitals of neighboring Uganda and Tanzania, Amado said.

Uber partnered with a local Suzuki dealer that imported 300 cars. Kenyan bank Stanbic arranged the financing so drivers with high ratings could opt in to the new service and own their Alto in three years.

The company noticed people were using Uber for errands, such as sending packages from office to office or for bank runs.

“There wasn’t a price point that was so affordable or attractive to do these shorter errands,” Amado said. The lower price is possible because the Alto is, at 25 km per liter, twice as fuel-efficient as the average car an Uber driver uses, he said.

There is another possible market.

Several Nairobians told Reuters they commute to work downtown in packed minibuses but hail Ubers for emergencies.

Harrison Iratenga, a security guard, said Uber had enabled his wife to deliver their third child at a hospital. “Our first two were born at home, before Uber was invented.”

The cheaper option could make it possible for him to use Uber more frequently, he said, as an Alto with the Chap Chap sticker cruised by.

The new service won’t suit everyone, including middle-class Kenyans who see their car as part of their personal style.

“I wouldn’t be caught dead in one of those,” said Mark Kuria, a 45-year-old civil servant dressed dapperly in a well-cut suit.

Reporting by Maggie Fick; Editing by Dale Hudson

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Watch Out, Sony and Microsoft: Google Is Developing a Video Game Streaming Service
February 7, 2018 6:10 pm|Comments (0)

Google, which has largely sat on the sidelines of the video game industry, seems ready to get in the fight.

The company is working on a new service codenamed Yeti, which would let people play games streamed to them online, potentially eliminating the need for a dedicated console like the PlayStation 4 or a high-end gaming computer.

News of the service first broke via The Information. Gaming industry insiders, who were not authorized to speak on-the-record, tell Fortune that Google is targeting a holiday 2019 release for Yeti, though the company is currently behind schedule and that date could shift.

Google recently hired Phil Harrison, a long-time gaming industry veteran. Sources indicate he is closely involved with the project. Harrison spent 15 years as the head of Sony’s network of game studios and three years as a senior member of Microsoft’s Xbox team. Since leaving those companies, he has served as an adviser and board member to various gaming companies.

Google declined to discuss the initiative, citing a company policy of not commenting on rumors or speculation.

Some details about Yeti are still fuzzy. It could be a dedicated streaming box or could operate through the company’s Chromecast device. How it will overcome issues of in-game lag is one of the biggest hurdles. But Fortune has learned that several major publishers are working with Google on the project.

Yeti would compete with Sony’s Playstation Now streaming service, which carries a $ 19.95 monthly fee (or $ 100 annual fee). That service, built off of one of the pioneers in game streaming, has not found an especially large audience, in part because of the high price and older catalog of games. Microsoft has previously discussed launching a game streaming service, but has not made any announcements about a new streaming product.

Google has flirted with the game industry before. It almost acquired Twitch in 2014 for $ 1 billion, but the deal fell apart in the final stages. (Amazon would later acquire that game streaming service.) Since then, Google’s YouTube division has dramatically increased its presence in the video game world, live streaming from E3, the video game industry trade show, and enabling live game streaming.

There’s certainly a big financial incentive for Google in video games. The industry saw revenues of $ 36 billion in the U.S. alone in 2017. Globally, it generates over $ 100 billion each year.

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Watch Out, Sony and Microsoft: Google Is Developing a Video Game Streaming Service
February 7, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

Google, which has largely sat on the sidelines of the video game industry, seems ready to get in the fight.

The company is working on a new service codenamed Yeti, which would let people play games streamed to them online, potentially eliminating the need for a dedicated console like the PlayStation 4 or a high-end gaming computer.

News of the service first broke via The Information. Gaming industry insiders, who were not authorized to speak on-the-record, tell Fortune that Google is targeting a holiday 2019 release for Yeti, though the company is currently behind schedule and that date could shift.

Google recently hired Phil Harrison, a long-time gaming industry veteran. Sources indicate he is closely involved with the project. Harrison spent 15 years as the head of Sony’s network of game studios and three years as a senior member of Microsoft’s Xbox team. Since leaving those companies, he has served as an adviser and board member to various gaming companies.

Google declined to discuss the initiative, citing a company policy of not commenting on rumors or speculation.

Some details about Yeti are still fuzzy. It could be a dedicated streaming box or could operate through the company’s Chromecast device. How it will overcome issues of in-game lag is one of the biggest hurdles. But Fortune has learned that several major publishers are working with Google on the project.

Yeti would compete with Sony’s Playstation Now streaming service, which carries a $ 19.95 monthly fee (or $ 100 annual fee). That service, built off of one of the pioneers in game streaming, has not found an especially large audience, in part because of the high price and older catalog of games. Microsoft has previously discussed launching a game streaming service, but has not made any announcements about a new streaming product.

Google has flirted with the game industry before. It almost acquired Twitch in 2014 for $ 1 billion, but the deal fell apart in the final stages. (Amazon would later acquire that game streaming service.) Since then, Google’s YouTube division has dramatically increased its presence in the video game world, live streaming from E3, the video game industry trade show, and enabling live game streaming.

There’s certainly a big financial incentive for Google in video games. The industry saw revenues of $ 36 billion in the U.S. alone in 2017. Globally, it generates over $ 100 billion each year.

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Watch Out, Sony and Microsoft: Google Is Developing a Video Game Streaming Service
February 7, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

Google, which has largely sat on the sidelines of the video game industry, seems ready to get in the fight.

The company is working on a new service codenamed Yeti, which would let people play games streamed to them online, potentially eliminating the need for a dedicated console like the PlayStation 4 or a high-end gaming computer.

News of the service first broke via The Information. Gaming industry insiders, who were not authorized to speak on-the-record, tell Fortune that Google is targeting a holiday 2019 release for Yeti, though the company is currently behind schedule and that date could shift.

Google recently hired Phil Harrison, a long-time gaming industry veteran. Sources indicate he is closely involved with the project. Harrison spent 15 years as the head of Sony’s network of game studios and three years as a senior member of Microsoft’s Xbox team. Since leaving those companies, he has served as an adviser and board member to various gaming companies.

Google declined to discuss the initiative, citing a company policy of not commenting on rumors or speculation.

Some details about Yeti are still fuzzy. It could be a dedicated streaming box or could operate through the company’s Chromecast device. How it will overcome issues of in-game lag is one of the biggest hurdles. But Fortune has learned that several major publishers are working with Google on the project.

Yeti would compete with Sony’s Playstation Now streaming service, which carries a $ 19.95 monthly fee (or $ 100 annual fee). That service, built off of one of the pioneers in game streaming, has not found an especially large audience, in part because of the high price and older catalog of games. Microsoft has previously discussed launching a game streaming service, but has not made any announcements about a new streaming product.

Google has flirted with the game industry before. It almost acquired Twitch in 2014 for $ 1 billion, but the deal fell apart in the final stages. (Amazon would later acquire that game streaming service.) Since then, Google’s YouTube division has dramatically increased its presence in the video game world, live streaming from E3, the video game industry trade show, and enabling live game streaming.

There’s certainly a big financial incentive for Google in video games. The industry saw revenues of $ 36 billion in the U.S. alone in 2017. Globally, it generates over $ 100 billion each year.

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Fiat Chrysler, Waymo expand deal for self-driving public ride-hailing service
January 30, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

DETROIT (Reuters) – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA) will provide Waymo with thousands of Pacifica hybrid minivans as Alphabet Inc’s self-driving unit begins rolling out its first public ride-hailing service later this year, the companies said on Tuesday.

Depending on its scope and scale, the agreement could put pressure on the likes of Uber Technologies Inc and General Motors Co to speed up their efforts to start self-driving commercial ride-hailing services.

Waymo is part of a growing number of vehicle manufacturers, technology companies and tech startups looking to develop so-called robo-taxis over the next three years in North America, Europe and Asia. Most of those companies have one or more partners.

Fiat Chrysler provided Waymo with 100 Pacifica minivans refitted for self-driving testing in 2016, then 500 in 2017.

“Our partnership with Waymo continues to grow and strengthen; this represents the latest sign of our commitment to this technology,” Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said in a statement.

The companies said the automaker would start delivering “thousands” of minivans in late 2018. Waymo is due to begin offering a ride-hailing service to the public in Phoenix later this year.

“The additional Pacifica Hybrid minivans will be used to support Waymo as it expands its service to more cities across the United States,” the companies said.

Asked for details on the length of the agreement, a spokeswoman for Fiat Chrysler said the companies would not disclose terms.

Last week, Waymo said it began testing self-driving vehicles in Atlanta, bringing to 25 the total number of U.S. cities in which it is testing.

“The Pacifica Hybrid minivans offer a versatile interior and a comfortable ride experience, and these additional vehicles will help us scale,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said.

Last November, Uber said it planned to buy up to 24,000 self-driving cars from Volvo as part of a non-exclusive deal from 2019 to 2021, marking the transition of the U.S. company from an app used to summon a taxi to the owner and operator of a fleet of cars.

Earlier this month, GM said it was seeking U.S. government approval for a fully autonomous car, one without a steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator pedal, to enter the automaker’s first commercial ride-sharing fleet in 2019.

Reporting By Nick Carey

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