Google sibling Waymo launches fully autonomous ride-hailing service

Google sibling Waymo launches fully autonomous ride-hailing service

Google sibling Waymo launches fully autonomous ride-hailing service

Neither Krafcik nor the company's reps shared exactly what has given the company the confidence to declare their vehicles "fully" self-driving, but it appears that Waymo has achieved Level 4 autonomy, which means the auto can handle every aspect of the driving experience on its own without need for human intervention.

Google has long stated its intent to skip driver-assist systems and go directly to fully autonomous driving. And while Waymo's news that fully autonomous cars are here is a big deal, it's a much bigger deal that the company is officially announcing its plans to launch an autonomous taxi service in the metropolitan area of Phoenix following the testing period that's set over the next few months. And soon, members of the public will get to use these vehicles in their daily lives.

Waymo says they prepared for this testing after putting vehicles to the test since 2009, having driven 3.5 million miles autonomously on public roads in 20 different USA cities since the beginning. (Waymo says that won't always be the case, though.) The cars won't have free rein over Arizona's roads.

Waymo's cars have driven with an empty front seat on its 91-acre test site in central California, where the company recently hosted reporters.

To date, Waymo has conducted 3.5m miles on USA public roads in a variety of scenarios.

"This demonstrates Waymo's confidence in the ability of these vehicles to function at least in this environment", Abuelsamid said. Once these measures have passed - and other self-driving companies have developed more road-ready systems - fully self-driving test programs could rapidly expand.

The company began testing self-driving vehicles in Chandler in 2016.

But this latest move will greatly increase the ambition, and risk, of Waymo's technology - it will eventually cover an area the size of Greater London, the company said.

Waymo also announced exactly how the new fully self-driving cars will be deployed: in a new public-facing service program, which sounds a lot like autonomous ride-hailing in the save vein as Uber or Lyft.

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. Passengers will initially be accompanied in the back seat by a Waymo employee, but will eventually travel alone in the robotic vehicle. The company also wasn't available to comment on whether Waymo employees will be able to remotely terminate a ride. The testing started October 19 with an automated Chrysler Pacifica minivan in Chandler.

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