Waymo Will Be First to Test Robo-Taxis Without Safety Drivers on Regular Americans
Driverless cars are real. That’s the takeaway from a new announcement by Waymo, which says its robo-taxis in Phoenix, Arizona, have been navigating the city’s streets without safety drivers since mid-October and will start giving rides to members of the public in the coming months.
As Ars Technica notes, Waymo staff are still involved. But instead of sitting in the driver’s seat of the vehicle ready to slam on the brakes when the car screws up, they sit a row back and are prepared to hit a button marked “Pull Over” in the event that something goes wrong. As the Verge explains, there are other limits put on the vehicles, too: they will operate only in a 100-square-mile suburb of Phoenix, and will be available only to people signed up for its existing robo-taxi testing scheme in the city.
Even so, this is a turning point for self-driving cars. It’s the first public American test of so-called Level 4 autonomy—defined as a car “designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip”—and it aligns with Waymo’s publicly stated aim to shun semi-autonomous systems and launch fully autonomous vehicles from the get-go.