Waymo’s autonomous driving technology has been front page news recently, shaking up the ride share arena with the introduction of rides from Sky Harbor Airport. This is not Waymo’s first time disrupting the transportation industry, though; the company has been a changemaker since Google first introduced the brand as its self-driving car project in 2016. While Waymo has since split from Google, it has continued supporting communities and leveraging technology to cause disruption for positive change.
In 2017, Waymo leadership recognized the knowledge gap with the public regarding driverless cars. So, they leveraged their subject matter expertise in the autonomous driving evolution with the launch of the world’s first public education campaign on the topic. Through Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving (ltad.com), they’ve worked to save lives, increase independence and improve mobility access — in the process laying the foundation for Waymo to partner with nonprofit leaders in the safety, disability and accessibility advocacy spaces.
As Waymo’s leadership developed these nonprofit relationships, they looked for additional ways to lend their support. Through its year-end giving campaign, Waymo Gives Back, the company supports roughly 10 nonprofits in the U.S. and overseas each year. These organizations are selected by Waymo’s employee resource groups and based on annual feedback from employees, which are called Waymonauts. Waymo’s workforce is an integral ingredient in the company’s corporate responsibility efforts.
Through Waymo Serves, the company’s volunteer initiative, employees are encouraged to provide in-person and virtual support to any number of organizations. Waymo facilitates dozens of opportunities and empowers team members to organize their own give-back opportunities on behalf of the company. These programs reinforce Waymo’s commitment to ensure that everyone it plans to serve feels heard and empowered to bring their voice to the future of transportation.
“Giving back is an integral part of our DNA at Waymo. When we begin operating in a city, we aim to enter as a member of the community by supporting local residents. We roll up our sleeves to volunteer, provide autonomous rides for people who need them, and use our fleet to deliver goods on behalf of local nonprofit organizations. We’re building a transformative mobility service for — and alongside — the people in our cities, and we’re so thankful for the partnership,” shares Suzanne Philion, head of communications, marketing and public affairs with Waymo.
Since Waymo’s inception, its leadership has believed the company’s technology would transform how people move in our cities — something that came to the forefront with COVID19 in 2020. As Waymo paused its ride-hauling operations out of an abundance of caution, the company recognized an opportunity to be of service. Having a fleet of vehicles available and a community in need, the company decided to pivot its focus to giving. Unable to move people during the pandemic and wanting to share its resources with organizations that could aid those in need, Waymo began reaching out to its nonprofit partners, healthcare facilities and schools in search of organizations that could benefit from Waymo’s delivery services.
Valley of the Sun United Way was the first to leverage this in-kind support to deliver face masks, shields and PPE to nonprofits in the Phoenix east valley. Chandler food bank AZCEND was among the organizations that received this critical support. Trinity Donovan, CEO of AZCEND shares, “We appreciate our longstanding partnership with Waymo to transfer food from our Food Bank to our Senior Center. This allows us to maximize our impact to provide food to our neighbors in need by reducing staff time and increasing efficiencies.”
And the need is tremendous. According to Google, in Arizona the top-searched Google term “apply for” in 2022 was “apply for food stamps.” At the same time, “where to donate food near me” saw an increase of 1,350% in Google searches, and searches for “food bank donation” increased by more than 100% over the last five years.
Waymo’s charitable delivery program has continued to scale across multiple states and cities. The company is now delivering with multiple vehicle platforms in its fleet, from the electric Jaguar I-PACEs to semi-trucks. In Arizona alone, nearly 40 deliveries were made using Waymo local delivery vehicles, many of which were conducted for AZCEND’s Gilbert Senior Center as Waymo conducted weekly meal deliveries for more than two years.
Waymo is using every resource available to it, including trucking, to push forward its commitment to transport for nonprofits. Salvation Army, St. Mary’s Food Bank, and United Food Bank are all leveraging Waymo’s charitable delivery service to get food into the hands of those who need it most. Waymo will continue to develop innovative solutions with community intertwined, working to aid those it serves through corporate giving, grassroots employee efforts and service-based in-kind support.
Tyler Butler is a chief social impact officer for a publicly traded corporate portfolio where she leads programs that positively impact humanity. She is also the founder of 11Eleven Consulting, and she is often cited as a subject matter expert by Forbes, SHRM, Entrepreneur, U.S. News & World Report and more.