Alphabet’s autonomous tech company, Waymo, is taking the next big step in its self-driving car tests: removing the driver. Over the next few months, the company’s fleet of autonomous cars in Phoenix will start driving without a person at the wheel in a confined geographic area. Those who participated in Waymo’s early rider program will be among the first to experience these rides.
“Our vehicles won’t just travel on a predetermined route or demo loop. They’ll be able to go fully driverless, without anyone at the wheel, in an entire geographic area in the Phoenix metro region.”
Previously, Waymo’s self-driving cars had been operating with a human sitting in the driver’s seat. During this next phase, Waymo will slowly expand the area it operates in to cover 600 square miles.
The announcement is part of a major media push to get consumers aware of self-driving cars and how far along the technology is. Last week, Waymo previewed this driverless ride for members of the press in hopes we would spread the word. One of the biggest remaining hurdles for autonomous car companies will be getting the driving public to sign off on the shift away from human drivers. It’s not clear that everyone is so keen on turning over the steering wheel to computers.