Waymo cars hit the the road without drivers

Randall Craig
November 8, 2017

It represents a raising of the stakes for the rest of the industry that sees full, Level 4 autonomy, in which a vehicle is capable of driving itself, with no human behind the wheel, in most environments and road conditions, as the ultimate goal.

The test program began last month near Phoenix, and the company hopes to soon open the rides up to members of the public enrolled in its Early Rider program.

Not anymore. The fleet of self-driving cars will at first operate in a limited area in Phoenix, but Waymo will gradually increase the coverage area to the size of "Greater London", it said, and add more vehicles over time. "Soon, they'll be able to make these trips in a fully self-driving auto, with Waymo as their chauffeur".

The company also says it has redundant braking, steering, power and computing systems so it never has to rely on a human driver.

Self-driving cars in Arizona are starting to navigate local roads without a human in the driver's seat.

To date, Waymo has conducted 3.5m miles on U.S. public roads in a variety of scenarios. Vehicles developed by rival Uber - which is locked in a bitter legal fight with Waymo over the technology - has covered more than a million miles and allowed Pittsburgh residents to hitch rides in autonomous vehicles spinning through the Pennsylvania city's streets. "Because they no longer have to be designed around a driver, just people", Krafcik said. We also have short range lasers that stay focused close-up to the side of the vehicle.

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. Arizona's laws regarding autonomous cars are so lax, in fact, that Waymo isn't even required to report accidents its cars have or how many times the "safety driver" had to grab the wheel. "At the same time, this research and development taking place in our community will ultimately make our roads safer and provide new freedom for those unable to drive".

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. They hail the vehicles using a Waymo app, and being the trip onboard with a push of a button. "People will get to use our fleet of on-demand vehicles, to do anything from commute to work, get home from a night out, or run errands", Krafcik said.

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