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 said Tuesday.
Waymo announced Tuesday that it has been running Level 4 autonomous cars, with no human behind the wheel, in Arizona since mid-October. 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.
In a speech at the Lisbon Web Summit on Tuesday, Waymo CEO John Krafick said, "We recently surveyed 3,000 adults across the United States, asking them when they expected to see self-driving vehicles - ones without a person in the driver's seat - on their roads".
While self-driving auto companies test their vehicles in public, they routinely have a human in the driver's seat ready to take over if the technology fails. "To date, Waymo vehicles have been operating on public roads with a test driver at the wheel".
"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".
"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. Developers are still grappling with vehicle performance in snow or heavy rain.
Waymo said members of the public will begin riding in its fleet of Fiat Chrysler Pacifica minivans without human drivers in a test run of the service in the next few months in certain areas of Phoenix, Arizona, which has dry, predictable weather.
"What is clear, however, is that Waymo has positioned itself as a central player in the space, and one that knows exactly what it wants to be, which can't be said about numerous other companies who have jumped into autonomous technology". Interested locals can sign up for an early rider program that will give them access to a self-driving vehicle share service.
This news doesn't, however, mean the self-driving revolution is here.
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.
Speaking at the Lisbon Web Summit, company chief John Krafcik said that Waymo is "now working on making this commercial service available to the public", reports Fortune.
I Am Not An Engineer, but it strikes me that a commercial taxi is one of the hardest things for a self-driving auto to do.
MI will become the sixth state where Waymo has tested its self-driving vehicles. The company has been running cold weather tests since 2012 and will bring its self-driving cars to MI this winter for more testing.