For almost a decade, autonomous vehicles have rolled on public roads, but always with a person behind the wheel for safety, to take control of the car if necessary. Now, Waymo has gone a step further and has launched its service completely without a human driver.
Waymo Driverless Cars
In this way, the unit of autonomous vehicles of Alphabet, the owner of Google, has explained that soon it will begin to transport people in their Chrysler Pacifica without “drivers of security”. The initiative will begin in a limited region of Phoenix, where it carries out a pilot program with passenger volunteers. The measure, the first of that kind of any company, is an important milestone in the bet of the Internet giant to lead the crowded group that tries to commercialize technology without a driver.
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They want the experience of traveling with Waymo to be a routine, so they want to use their automatic driver for the daily needs of people, said John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, during the Web Summit conference in Portugal. Fully autonomous cars are already here. After the announcement, Krafcik said that a Waymo service will soon be available that will allow people to book cars with a mobile application, similar to services like Uber and Lyft. Waymo partnered with Lyft but has not shared details about that agreement.
Waymo driverless cars will operate in selected areas of Chandler, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. The representatives of Waymo and the city of Chandler declined to specify the size of the test area. In his presentation in Portugal, Krafcik said that tests without drivers will soon be expanded to the entire metropolitan area of Phoenix. Some states have laws that require a human being to be in the driver’s seat of a vehicle, although Waymo and other companies have pressed against them. Last month, California regulators eliminated that rule in the state.
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The Waymo cars have driven with an empty front seat on their 8.4-hectare test site in central California, where the company recently led a group of reporters. The Chrysler minivans have a small graphics interface in the back seat, which allows passengers to see the route and has buttons to call customer service or stop the car. The Alphabet subsidiary has accumulated more kilometers of testing with its autonomous highway technology than any other company pursuing a similar goal such as Ford Motor Co. and Uber Technologies Inc. But those companies have existing manufacturing capabilities (such as automotive) and networks of drivers (like Uber) that Waymo lacks.
Krafcik, a former Executive of Ford, said an on-demand service would be the first type of commercial use for Waymo. During his appearance at the summit in Lisbon, he also talked about how vehicles can replace the personal property of automobiles, an existential fear of the automotive industry.