Alphabet Inc's Waymo will launch a ride-hailing service with no human behind the steering wheel and has been testing the fully self-driving cars on public roads in Arizona, Chief Executive John Krafcik said on Tuesday. Many self-driving companies had circled 2020 as the date when self-driving vehicle technology would be deployed on US roads.
Initially the cars will run in an area of Phoenix, Texas, but it has ambitions to "cover a region that's larger than the size of Greater London, and we'll add more vehicles as we grow". Little did we know at the time, they were already doing it. 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. He ticked off the ways driverless cars could be redesigned if the vehicle didn't need space for a driver: to ferry groceries, as a "personal dining room" or for naps.
Waymo employees will be the first to test the fully automated rides. "Our ultimate goal is to bring our fully self-driving technology to more cities in the USA and around the world". The company's vehicles have traveled more than 3.5 million miles on public roads, and only one has been reported to cause a crash-a vehicle in California last year hit the side of a bus at two miles an hour last year. The company has partnerships with Fiat-Chrysler, Lyft, and Avis, even while it's manufacturing its own sensors and hardware to reduce dependence on suppliers. Developers are still grappling with vehicle performance in snow or heavy rain. "Everything in it is designed and built for full autonomy. Our radars can see underneath and around vehicles, tracking moving objects usually hidden from the human eye".
The self-driving auto is edging closer to becoming driverless.
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.
But given Krafcik's announcement at Web Summit, the timing of the Castle tour indicates that the company was poised to make a public-facing driverless ride-sharing vehicle announcement and wanted media to have experience riding with a robot at the wheel for themselves.
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.
And because Waymo is operating its vehicles in Arizona, where the laws regulating autonomous tests are practically non-existent, a lot of the reporting on the progress of these vehicles will be incredibly one-sided.