Breakthrough Test Means Waymo's Autonomous Cars Can Ditch Backup Drivers

08 November, 2017, 01:10 | Author: Pamela Mathis
  • Waymo's fully self-driving cars are here

It represents a raising of the stakes for the rest of the industry that sees full, Level 4 autonomy, in which a vehicle is capable of driving itself, with no human behind the wheel, in most environments and road conditions, as the ultimate goal. Until then, members of Waymo's Early Rider program will be the first to ride these fully autonomous vehicles as the company collects more data.

The tests aren't limited to one or two routes, either; the test area where the truly driverless trials are being conducted in Chandler, Arizona (part of the greater Phoenix metro area), and the cars are able to go anywhere within this defined space.

For now, you'll also have to be a member of Waymo's Early Rider program to join in on the fun, and you'll also still have to deal with a Waymo employee hanging out in the vehicle with you. It will be good for the old and the young, the blind and blotto, and save lives in the process, by starting to remove fallible humanity from the highway equation, boosters say.

According to Waymo, some cars that have already been plying roads in the Phoenix area have now been switched to fully automatic mode - meaning there is no test driver behind the wheel.

Sam Abuelsamid, senior analyst for Navigant Research, says Waymo's tests without a human backup are the first to his knowledge on public roads at normal speeds.

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The Alphabet arm has racked up more autonomous test miles on roads than others developing the tech, including Ford Motor Co. and Uber Technologies Inc.

A self-driving electric shuttle built by Navya was tested early this year in Las Vegas in a United States first and will start a regular route there on Wednesday, the company told AFP.

The company also shared some details about the expansion of its pilot program in a blog post. "Because they no longer have to be designed around a driver, just people", Krafcik said. Of course, Waymo is still being watched by an employee in the vehicle in case of an emergency.

Over time it is expected that self-driving technology could dramatically improve the safety on our roads.

"People will get to use our fleet of on-demand vehicles, to do anything from commute to work, get home from a night out, or run errands". They hail the vehicles using a Waymo app, and being the trip onboard with a push of a button. Unlike California, which is another hotbed for self-driving vehicle testing, Arizona doesn't require companies to publicly disclose accidents involving its cars, nor the number of times human drivers were forced to take control of their driverless vehicles.


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