America's first ever fleet of self-driving cars hits the road

Ken Copeland
November 8, 2017

GM Chief Executive Mary Barra said in October the company aims to take the driver out of its self-driving vehicles "in quarters, not years".

The company's next goal will be to expand self-driving services to a 600-square mile radius around Phoenix.

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. 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.

It is the not the first time Waymo has demonstrated cars without human drivers - even as a back-up - on public roads.

To date, Waymo has conducted 3.5m miles on United States public roads in a variety of scenarios. For eight years, the company has been developing the technology and doing test runs on public roads across 20 USA cities. The company has certainly been testing self-driving cars on public roads longer than the broader tech and auto industries, and it has access to Google's machine engineering talent, making it a formidable competitor to companies with decades of car-building experience.

The company also shared some details about the expansion of its pilot program in a blog post.

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"This is the most advanced vehicle we've developed to date", he said.

Waymo says it has an operations team that can answer questions from the cars' computers, but the cars will make driving decisions.

"Everything in [Waymo's autonomous cars] is designed and built for full autonomy", Krafcik said. We also have short range lasers that stay focused close-up to the side of the vehicle. "I look forward to a continued partnership with Waymo as they continue to develop this technology here in Chandler and throughout the region".

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

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Members of the public taking part in the company's trial in Phoenix will be its first customers, using a ride-hailing app. "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. 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.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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