Waymo cars hit the the road without drivers

Randall Padilla
November 8, 2017

Waymo will allow the public to start riding in the fully self-driving vehicles in the next few months.

Krafcik also said that Waymo wants to broaden the geographic scope of its trial, starting with expansion in the near-term to cover the entire Phoenix metro area, which represents more acreage than the whole of the Greater London area, he noted (though it's obviously far less dense).

Since Waymo began as a project in Google's "moonshot" lab in 2009, its vehicles have logged more than 5.6 million kilometres of autonomous driving on USA roads, according to the company.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Those who participated in the "early rider" program will also have the chance to access these fully self-driving cars.

Waymo executives see removing the human backstop as a natural part of the evolution of their rigorous technology - and as a vital step in finally tapping all the commercial and social benefits they and other advocates of autonomous driving promise. Initially a Waymo employee will travel with the customers, but not behind the wheel as has been the case previously.

Last week, USA auto retailer AutoNation Inc announced a multiyear partnership for vehicle maintenance and repairs for Waymo's self-driving car operations.

We all knew there would eventually come a day when self-driving cars would start roaming United States streets without someone in the driver's seat for safety, but you still might be surprised that the day has come this soon. Many self-driving companies had circled 2020 as the date when self-driving vehicle technology would be deployed on US roads. Waymo plans to expand the range in the future.

A self-driving electric shuttle built by Navya was tested early this year in Las Vegas in a USA first and will start a regular route there on Wednesday, the company told AFP. But experts have said the public should not expect this problem to be solved quickly. "Because they no longer have to be designed around a driver, just people", Krafcik said.

According to The Verge, a Waymo employee will still be in the vehicle, but likely sitting behind the driver's seat instead of in it.

Waymo's cars have driven with an empty front seat on its 91-acre test site in central California, where the company recently hosted reporters.

The company began testing self-driving vehicles in Chandler in 2016.

But it most certainly signals a growing level of confidence by Waymo, and, by extension, Alphabet, in the technology developed by its engineers over the last eight years.

Ditching the human test driver may sound alarming, but it brings Waymo closer to offering a truly autonomous vehicle.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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