Wednesday, 22 November, 2017

Waymo's autonomous cars are already on public roads without safety drivers

Waymo's fully self-driving cars are here Waymo now testing its self-driving cars on public roads with no one at the wheel
Kelvin Reese | 08 November, 2017, 01:47

But Waymo is believed to be the first company to test vehicles on public roads without a driver ready to take over in an emergency.

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).

Waymo Chief Executive John Krafcik said Tuesday that the company, which grew out of Google's self-driving auto initiative, has begun running some of its fully autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans without a human backup in the driver's seat.

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Although it has outlined its autonomous vehicles' safety procedures in the past-and today's announcement mentioned the word "safe" 10 times-Waymo wasn't immediately available to explain how riders will actually be able to halt a ride if they feel unsafe.

The Silicon Valley company is accelerating the competition to bring the first fully autonomous vehicle to market. Initially a Waymo employee will travel with the customers, but not behind the wheel as has been the case previously.

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Following eight years of development and an ongoing public awareness campaign, Waymo's self-driving cars are now transporting passengers without a human behind the wheel.

The switch to self-driving vehicles is heralded by automakers and tech companies from Silicon Valley to Detroit as a safety measure on public roads. But experts have said the public should not expect this problem to be solved quickly. And while Waymo's news that fully autonomous cars are here is a big deal, it's a much bigger deal that the company is officially announcing its plans to launch an autonomous taxi service in the metropolitan area of Phoenix following the testing period that's set over the next few months. "One (vehicle) for napping, a personal dining room, a mobile office, or a vehicle just for when moving into your new place".

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 Arma programme was slated to last one year. People could claim the cars for a day, a week "or even longer", he said.

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

In April, Waymo announced it was expanding its fleet of 100 Chrysler minivans by an additional 500 vehicles and a test program - with operators behind the wheel - for families of non-Google employees to learn how people might use autonomous technology in daily life.

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