The company announced that what users are seeing in the video would be what they’ll see pulling up next to you at a traffic light.
It would seem as though we are about to witness a historic moment. Waymo has announced that its self-driving cars will no longer use a human safety driver. This while being tested on the roads of Phoenix. And, the company is gearing up to launch the first commercial driverless taxi service.
On Tuesday, Waymo, the driverless car unit Alphabet, Google’s parent company, released a video of its cars tooling around the Arizona suburbs. Without anyone behind the wheel. Typically like all driverless car startups, Waymo uses a human who can take over driving duties in case of an emergency.
In a blog post, the company announced that what users are seeing in the video would be what they’ll see pulling up next to you at a traffic light. In the post, the company stated that that the car was their safest and most advanced vehicles on the road today. Waymo also said that the cars are test-driving on public roads with no-one at the wheel.
Previously, Waymo vehicles were operating with a test driver at the wheel. Over the next few months, the company will invite members of the public to take trips in the driverless vehicles. Participants in the early rider program will be amongst the first to experience these fully self-driving rides. They will use Waymo vehicles to commute to work, take children to school, or get home from a night out.
Waymo CEO John Krafcik was set to announce the news during a speech at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. Waymo’s fully autonomous cars are big news, but even bigger is the company’s announcement that it plans to launch an autonomous taxi service over the next few months. No date has been released for the launch of the commercial endeavor.
Waymo will still stick to an area around the southeastern suburb of Chandler and it plans to expand from there. Phoenix has very consistent sunny weather and wide roads. The relatively easy-going driving conditions and lax regulatory environment have made it a great testing ground for Waymo. As the autonomous system get more and more familiar with the area, it’ll venture out further.
Another testing program was launched in Detroit in October. This means that the Waymo system is also learning how to get around in some of the least forgiving conditions in the United States.
It’s been around 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. While it will only be rolling out to one city at a time, it seems safe to say that this is the future whether we are ready for it or not.