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08 November 2017, 01:09 | Patty Hardy
Waymo now testing its self-driving cars on public roads with no one at the wheel
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.
The brain-bending, potentially earth-moving technology that allows self-driving cars to drive themselves has generally come with an asterisk - in the form of an old-fashioned flesh-and-blood driver sitting behind the wheel, just in case.
The move by Waymo, which started October 19 with an automated Chrysler Pacifica minivan in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, Arizona, is a major step toward vehicles driving themselves without human backups on public roads. Vehicles developed by rival Uber - which is locked in a bitter legal fight with Waymo over the technology - has covered more than a million miles and allowed Pittsburgh residents to hitch rides in autonomous vehicles spinning through the Pennsylvania city's streets.
The company also shared some details about the expansion of its pilot program in a blog post. Developers are still grappling with vehicle performance in snow or heavy rain.
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The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association estimates that its members built almost 4 million vehicles in the USA a year ago . For one, the USA has a strong relationship with Japan, which has become a lynchpin of an Indo-Pacific strategy to counter China.
Waymo's stated goal is to ensure safer roads for everyone, and after having spent some time in the fully driverless Pacifica that will be operating in Chandler, I'm more convinced than ever they're on a path to make this happen.
"Everything in [Waymo's autonomous cars] is designed and built for full autonomy", Krafcik said. The lasers can see objects in three dimensions, up to 300 meters away. "Our radars can see underneath and around vehicles, tracking moving objects usually hidden from the human eye".
Waymo, which started life as a project within Google's moonshot research lab, has been developing autonomous vehicles for over eight years.
Over time it is expected that self-driving technology could dramatically improve the safety on our roads. Waymo, which is owned by Google's parent company Alphabet, is in a race with other companies such as Delphi, General Motors, Intel, Uber, Lyft and Apple to bring autonomous vehicles to the public. With a tap of their phones, people will be able to summon "our fleet on-demand vehicles to do anything from commute to work, get home from a night out, or run errands". 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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