Waymo is testing self-driving cars with passengers and no driver in Arizona
The first application for Waymo’s self-driving technology will be a Waymo driverless service.
Alphabet Inc’s Waymo, which started as the Google self-driving car project in 2009, has begun testing autonomous vehicles, without a backup driver, on public roads in an area of the Phoenix metropolitan region.
Waymo is testing a subset of its fleet, Chrysler Pacifica vans, in fully autonomous mode in Chandler, Arizona.
The announcement was made by Waymo chief executive John Krafcik at Web Summit 2017 in Lisbon. In a blog post Krafcik emphasized that “soon, members of the public will get to use these vehicles in their daily lives.”
Until this point, Waymo vehicles had been operating on public roads with a test driver behind the wheel. Krafcik said that over time, Waymo’s driverless vehicles will span a region larger than Greater London.
Waymo has been developing, testing and trialing self-driving cars for more than eight years. The company has driven more than 3.5 million autonomous miles on public roads throughout 20 different US cities.
The company completed the world’s first fully self-driving trip on public roads two years ago, taking Steve Mahan, who is legally blind, from a park to a doctor’s office without anyone in the driver’s seat.
Waymo also has a private test track, where the company has run more than 20,000 individual scenario tests.
Krafcik said all Waymo vehicles come equipped with unique safety features needed to operate autonomously, including computer and power systems, backup steering and braking capable of bringing cars to a safe stop.
As well as personal vehicles, Waymo has been exploring a variety of different areas of transportation, such as ride-hailing services and public transport options, incorporating a focus on communal mobility.
“By giving people access to a fleet of vehicles, rather than starting with a personal ownership model, more people will be able to experience this technology, sooner,” Krafcik said on the company’s Medium blog.
“That’s why the first application of our fully self-driving technology will be a Waymo driverless service.”
Over the next few months, Waymo plans to invite members of the public to take trips in their fully autonomous cars, encouraging them to commute to work, take the kids to school, or get home safely after a night out.
Riders can hail vehicles using a Waymo app, and start their trip by pushing a button once they’re inside. The cars are also fitted with a support system that allows riders to talk to a live Waymo support agent at any time.
Check out the video for Waymo’s fully autonomous vehicle technology below.
Waymo will begin testing self-driving cars on Michigan roads this winter, just in time for the first snowfall of the season, giving the company’s vehicles first-hand practice driving in snow, sleet and icy conditions.
In August, Dominos and Ford began testing an autonomous pizza delivery system in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
From early 2018, a number of vehicles, operating autonomously under the supervision of General Motors and subsidiary Cruise Automation, will be tested on city streets throughout the borough of Manhattan, New York.
Although most Americans hold a generally positive view of technology, a recent research report reveals rising concerns surrounding emerging automation technologies and the effects robotics could have on US jobs.
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