Google-owned automated driving firm Waymo has revealed trials of its completely driverless cars are now underway in the United States.
Since the middle of last month, a fleet has been driving around on public roads in the US state of Arizona, CEO John Krafcik said on Tuesday.
The trials are significant for one massive reason; this time there’s no safety driver behind the wheel.
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Although there’s still a Waymo employee in the car (sat behind the driver’s seat), this is the first time the cars have been in complete control on public roads.
Next up is the trial of a ride-hailing service. Over the next few months members of its early rider program public can take a trip. From there it’ll be invites-only.
In a post on Medium, the Waymo team wrote: “After more than eight years of development, we’re taking the next step toward unlocking the potential of fully self-driving technology.
“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. To date, Waymo vehicles have been operating on public roads with a test driver at the wheel. Now, in an area of the Phoenix metro region, a subset of our fleet will operate in fully autonomous mode, with Waymo as the sole driver.
“Over time, we’ll cover a region that’s larger than the size of Greater London, and we’ll add more vehicles as we grow.”
The company added that since 2009 it has racked up 3.5 million autonomous miles on public roads in 20 states.
Waymo also says it has run 20,000 individual scenario tests at its private test track. These tests are designed to help the cars perform better in unusual situations.
It’s safe to say Google thinks the tech is ready.
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