Updated: Feb 24
The autonomous ride-hailing race took another dramatic step recently as Waymo which is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet announced that very soon its Uber-like ride hailing service won’t have a safety driver in the front seat. Waymo has a fleet of Chrysler Pacific minivans fitted with self-driving technology which members of the public can start using in a few months. Passengers will initially be accompanied in the back seat by a Waymo employee, but will eventually travel alone in the robotic car. The service will first be available to those who are already part of the company’s public trial already under way in Phoenix. The service marks a major step forward in the development and roll-out of fully autonomous vehicles. While self-driving car companies have routinely tested their vehicles on public roads, they usually have a human sitting behind the wheel ready to take over should the autonomous technology fail. Waymo has been testing the automated Chrysler Pacifica minivans without a human backup since 19 October in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, Arizona, which has no restrictions on self-driving cars.