Published: Wed, November 08, 2017
Hi-Tech | By Cory Rios

Waymo's Moment of Glory: Self-Driving Minivans Now 100% Automated

Waymo's Moment of Glory: Self-Driving Minivans Now 100% Automated

Previously road tests have taken place with a person in the driving seat ready to take the wheel.

The new, fully autonomous trials will begin in Phoenix, where Waymo's first public-facing pilot program has been in service since April. For the moment, this fully autonomous driving mode is limited to a 100 square mile metro region.

"Fully self-driving cars are here", Krafcik said, according to a copy of his speech provided by Waymo. We like to say: "we're not building a better auto, we're building a better driver".

Starting now, Waymo's fully self-driving vehicles - our safest, most advanced vehicles on the road today - are test-driving on public roads, without anyone in the driver's seat.

In the year since it spun off from Google, Waymo has moved aggressively to test its cars on public roads.

The company said it has been testing its autonomous systems for the past eight years with more than 5 million miles logged on public roads. Waymo has partnered with Lyft but hasn't shared details on that deal. Developers are still grappling with vehicle performance in snow or heavy rain. "Because they no longer have to be designed around a driver, just people", Krafcik said. Our combination of powerful sensors gives our vehicles a 360 degree view of the world. "Our radars can see underneath and around vehicles, tracking moving objects usually hidden from the human eye".

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At first, those passengers will be accompanied in the back seat by a Waymo employee, but eventually they will travel alone, although they will be able to hit a button to stop the vehicle.

The new fully autonomous fleet and proposed self-driving service puts Waymo in a pole position within the autonomous development race.

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

Waymo competitors, including Uber have said ditching human drivers could remake the economics of taxi services, ridesharing and freight hauling. "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", Krafcik said.

With numerous companies clamoring to conquer the burgeoning autonomous vehicle market - among them both Silicon Valley firms like Waymo and manufacturers like BMW, Honda and Ford - the change unveiled by Mr Krafcik could help Waymo separate from the pack. 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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