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How Waymo's new rider-only service could benefit people with disabilities

Waymo will expand its autonomous ride-hailing service to its so-called “Trusted Testers” in downtown Phoenix and the East Valley with a new option to ride without a safety driver.

After rideshare services dropped mask mandates this spring, the option for a driverless ride may increase accessibility to transportation for people with disabilities and special health care needs, according to Ability 360 CEO Christopher Rodriguez.

"I would imagine, so long as everything is cleaned, this might provide an opportunity with less vulnerability with respect to engaging with another person but still wanting to get from point A to point B," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said that moving forward, Ability 360 encourages Waymo and similar services to continue expanding accessible options by including vehicles accessible to wheelchairs and other mobility devices in their fleets.

Waymo said in the press release the program will begin with select passengers on Aug. 30.

Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.