Waymo is taking the next step in the driverless auto evolution

08 November, 2017, 01:45 | Author: Gladys Mathis
  • EnlargeWaymo

We are in the midst of a pretty historic moment.

Last week, US auto retailer AutoNation Inc announced a multiyear partnership for vehicle maintenance and repairs for Waymo's self-driving car operations. Yup, the time has come.

Waymo, the autonomous auto company from Google's parent company Alphabet, has started testing a fleet of self-driving vehicles without any backup drivers on public roads, its chief executive officer said Tuesday.

Dozens of companies are testing self-driving technology on public roads across the United States and some autonomous features are available in today's cars. In a blog post, the company announced that what you see in that video is what you'll be seeing pull up next to you at a traffic light.

Waymo LLC is taking a historic step forward in the development of fully driverless cars by unleashing the first fleet of robot vehicles on public roads without humans behind the wheel. At the time, Krafcik declined to provide an exact timetable as to when it would begin testing fully self-driving vehicles on public roads. The company did not say whether it was testing the driverless cars in environments considered challenging for autonomous vehicles, like bridges or tunnels, or more hard conditions, like driving at night or in rain and snow - usually not a big concern in the dry Phoenix climate.

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But this latest move will greatly increase the ambition, and risk, of Waymo's technology - it will eventually cover an area the size of Greater London, the company said. And starting very soon, the company plans to invite regular people for rides in these fully self-driving vehicles.

"Our ultimate goal is to bring our fully self-driving technology to more cities in the USA and around the world", John Krafcik, Waymo's chief, said in prepared remarks at a technology conference in Portugal on Tuesday.

Waymo chief executive John Krafcik used the Web Summit in Lisbon to announce a portion of its fleet in the Phoenix area will operate in fully autonomous mode with the cars handling all the driving. No date has been released for the launch of the commercial endeavour, but just setting a vague timetable is a change from last week when Gizmodo took a ride in one of Waymo's self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans. The relatively easy-going driving conditions and lax regulatory environment have made it a great testing ground for Waymo. There's also an onboard support system that allows them to talk to a live Waymo support agent at any time.

It's been about eight years since Google publicly kicked off the private sector's race to replace the old-fashioned automobile, and its cautious approach to building a fleet of autonomous taxis appears to be paying off.

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