Google’s self-driving car project, Waymo, has become the first to launch completely autonomous cars, free of humans behind the wheel, on the road. Waymo’s CEO, John Krafcik said yesterday at a conference in Portugal that the company had been testing the driverless vehicles on Arizona roads for the last couple weeks and will soon start offering taxi services using these cars.
These cars will drive subscribers to Waymo’s Early Rider program within a 100-square-mile area in Chandler, a Phoenix suburb, and there will be a Waymo employee in the car, just not behind the wheel: most likely in the backseat.
The news is the latest sign of how quickly self-driving technology is progressing and a suggestion that from here on out, things will be moving even more quickly, with the self-driving car tech developing exponentially as is characteristic of most tech these days.
Waymo has been pushing for road tests aggressively for years, The Verge’s Andrew J. Hawkins notes. It has also partnered with companies including Fiat-Chrysler, Lyft, and Avis, and is producing its own sensors to reduce its dependence on third-party suppliers. That last bit is really important: remember how much of Tesla’s production problems came from delays related to external suppliers. Related: Why Saudi Arabia’s Crackdown Sent Oil Prices Soaring
Everything in a Waymo, says Krafcik, is “designed and built for full autonomy. Our combination of powerful sensors gives our vehicles a 360 degree view of the world. The lasers can see objects in three dimensions, up to 300 meters away. We also have short range lasers that stay focused close-up to the side of the vehicle. Our radars can see underneath and around vehicles, tracking moving objects usually hidden from the human eye.”
The company said in its first-ever safety report that the car has 3.5 million miles driven on public roads and 2.5 billion miles in simulation. While Arizona hasn’t got much in the way of self-driving car regulation, which makes it great for early tests, it will take a while until we start using the Waymo taxi service anywhere else.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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