Waymo’s Self-Driving Fleet is First to Go Truly Driverless

Waymo will be test driving its fully autonomous vehicles on public roads in Arizona through a ride-hailing pilot program.

The Alphabet-owned company announced its fleet of driverless cars will operate on city streets in true self-driving mode without anyone behind the wheel—a first for any company.

“After more than eight years of development, we’re taking the next step toward unlocking the potential of fully self-driving technology,” Waymo wrote in a blog post.

Waymo has been testing its self-driving fleet on public roads, but the cars have always been accompanied by a driver, raking up 2.5 billion miles in 2016 alone.

For the first time the company will be inviting members of the Phoenix community to take a ride in the backseat of a Fiat Chrysler Pacifica guided by Waymo’s driveless technology.

“Now, in an area of the Phoenix metro region, a subset of our fleet will operate in fully autonomous mode, with Waymo as the sole driver. Over time, we’ll cover a region that’s larger than the size of Greater London, and we’ll add more vehicles as we grow.”

CEO John Krafcik made an announcement about the pilot program at the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon. The company is focusing on shared mobility, looking at how Waymo can be applied to public transit, ride-sharing services and personal vehicles.

However, the company explained they are holding on running with a personal ownership model and launching the free ride-hailing pilot to let more people experience their driverless technology.

The company’s first safety report released last month pitched Waymo as a safer option for roads, finding that 1.2 million people die in traffic-related crashes globally each year and 94 per cent involve human error.

Waymo vehicles come with safety features like backup steering and braking that can be used to stop the car if the driverless technology fails. The company also secured a patent in the summer for reducing surface rigidity of a vehicle, car technology and materials that details a way for cars to crash softly by cushioning it’s impact in collisions.

Uber began testing its own driverless technology on public roads in Toronto this August, but there are human drivers behind the wheel at all times.