Waymo, the self-driving auto division of Alphabet, announced today that it has begun testing its autonomous vehicles with no human sitting in the driver's seat in Phoenix, Arizona. Most of the measures Waymo has described in the past have involved a human taking over control of the vehicle from the driver's seat, but that would be quite hard to do from the back of the auto.
"Starting now, Waymo's fully self-driving vehicles - our safest, most advanced vehicles on the road today - are test-driving on public roads, without anyone in the driver's seat", the company writes. The self-driving minivans will now be allowed to drive in restricted areas sans drivers and will eventually be allowed to drive in the entire Phoenix metro area.
Waymo's CEO says, "Fully self-driving cars are here", which may be a bit of puffery but probably isn't too far from the truth.
"Over time, we'll cover a region that's larger than the size of Greater London, and we'll add more vehicles as we grow".
Alphabet's self-driving auto company, Waymo, is introducing truly driverless cars to public roads for the first time, the company's CEO John Krafcik announced today at the Web Summit conference.
The Associated Press reports that Waymo, which is owned and operated by Google's parent company Alphabet, started the autonomous testing in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler on October 19. Developers are still grappling with vehicle performance in snow or heavy rain.
Waymo is Google's self-driving vehicle program that was spun off from its parent company a year ago. Phoenix also rarely experiences the kind of inclement weather that autonomous technology still struggles to handle.
This news doesn't, however, mean the self-driving revolution is here.
Speaking at the Lisbon Web Summit, company chief John Krafcik said that Waymo is "now working on making this commercial service available to the public", reports Fortune.
The news is the latest sign of how quickly self-driving technology is progressing and a suggestion that from here on out, things will be moving even more quickly, with the self-driving auto tech developing exponentially as is characteristic of most tech these days. Using a smartphone app, members of the public would be able to summon a Chrysler Pacifica people carrier.
With over eight years of testing under its belt, Waymo is a pioneer of self-driving technology and has tested its system in six states, the latest being MI. The company has been running cold weather tests since 2012 and will bring its self-driving cars to MI this winter for more testing.