Here’s How to Know When Driverless Cars Are Here

OK, I'll buy one. But please, not a minivan. Anything but a minivan.Andrej Sokolow/DPA via ZUMA

Here’s some genuinely interesting news about self-driving cars:

Alphabet’s Waymo announced Wednesday that it will begin a pilot program with Walmart to shuttle customers to and from stores to pick up their groceries. The new initiative is part of a series of partnerships with companies to offer customers self-driving cars to run errands and shop. Customers in Phoenix who order groceries on, will receive savings on their goods, and as their orders are put together at the store, autonomous Waymo vehicles will take customers to and from Walmart.

This is interesting for a few reasons:

  • It’s Waymo, not Tesla or Uber or Apple. As near as I can tell, Waymo is leagues ahead of any other company in this field.
  • It’s a nice, easy pilot program. Waymo isn’t creating a driverless taxi program or anything like that. Their cars need to know how to go from a suburban address to the nearest Walmart store, and that’s it.

Right now, the only autonomous car company I care about is Waymo. Their testing seems to be far, far beyond any other company. Their technology is far more advanced than any other company. And yet they keep a low profile, continuing their testing in the real world and not killing anyone in the process. This grocery app is a perfect small-scale app for them that’s easy to set up and easy to debug, but that provides a genuine service for seniors or teens or the disabled. If it works, it will slowly expand into other applications.

Ignore everyone else. Waymo is the leading edge of driverless cars no matter how loud and brassy the other guys are. Once they start doing real-world stuff like this, it means they’re truly not far from honest-to-god driverless cars that can do anything.


The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.