Waymo announces driverless test program in Phoenix, accepting ride hails soon

Waymo announces driverless test program in Phoenix, accepting ride hails soon

There are many companies testing self-driving cars in the United States and elsewhere.

Alphabet's autonomous tech company Waymo is taking the next big step in its self-driving auto tests: removing the driver.

Google's fleet of self-driving cars have hit the roads without a human driver for the first time.

John Krafcik, Waymo CEO and a former Ford Motor Co. executive, announced the move at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal on Tuesday.

Previously road tests have taken place with a person in the driving seat ready to take the wheel.

While a Google employee will still sit in the back seat of Waymo's automated Chrysler Pacifica minivan, the empty driver's seat ramps up competition between the Motor City and Silicon Valley in the race to put fully self-driving cars on the road.

Despite there being no driver behind the wheel, a Waymo employee will remain in the vehicle at all times. The area that they can drive around in without a human present spreads 100 square miles in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler.

Krafcik also said that Waymo wants to broaden the geographic scope of its trial, starting with expansion in the near-term to cover the entire Phoenix metro area, which represents more acreage than the whole of the Greater London area, he noted (though it's obviously far less dense). Bringing that truly driverless Level 4 experience to public roads and public riders is a huge step, and a sign we could be hailing an autonomous ride sooner than you might think.