Self-Driving Cars With No Human Backups in Testing on Arizona Roads

Self-Driving Cars With No Human Backups in Testing on Arizona Roads

Waymo, the autonomous tech division spun off from Google's self-driving auto project, announced today that after eight years of development, it will begin testing true driverless vehicles in the Phoenix metro area.

That doesn't mean that there won't be cars operating outside of these geofenced areas with a safety driver behind the wheel or that Waymo has outright won the driverless vehicle race.

CEO John Krafcik confirmed the program while delivering a speech at a conference in Portugal, with a Waymo blog post shortly following his Tuesday, Nov. 7 remarks. Eventually, Waymo will expand the area within which its cars will be able to operate without a driver to 600 square miles, then gradually into cities outside of Phoenix.

"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. Until now, "early riders" who have hailed their self-driving minivan using an app have always had a human test driver in the vehicle.

"Waymo's work here in Chandler is groundbreaking as they work toward their goal of fully autonomous vehicles", said Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny in a statement.

Waymo has been testing self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans on public roads in Chandler, Arizona, for two years, but they have always had a human driver behind the wheel ready to take control of the vehicle if necessary.

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Waymo and its partners face competition from a wide range of vehicle makers, established technology companies and well-funded start-ups. The company says it wants to test a robotaxi service in the near future. Waymo's leap to Level 4 is a huge step beyond even the Audi AI system of the new A8, which can take over driving but only through low-speed highway traffic jams.

The company is also getting ready to initiate its first commercial driverless taxi service.

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 vehicle tech developing exponentially as is characteristic of most tech these days.

In the release, Waymo says it will use MI unpredictable winters to "gain additional cold weather experience on public roads" as it fully tests its self-driving systems in different conditions.

MI will become the sixth state where Waymo has tested its self-driving vehicles. No other company has succeeded in operating a fleet of fully driverless cars on public roads.

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