Self-driving car leader Waymo has apparently been putting fully autonomous vehicles on the road with no safety driver in some parts of Arizona since October, according to CEO John Crafcik. Waymo later posted up a YouTube video showing off some of these high-level, fully autonomous vehicles in action, along with an official announcement that they would begin testing on public roads with absolutely no safety fallback inside the car. The announcement attached to the video also stated that these vehicles would soon begin accepting passengers from the general public. The announcement was short and somewhat vague and did not go over exactly when public passengers would be able to hop into self-driving cars, or how that exactly would work.
This makes Waymo the very first self-driving car company to ever put fully autonomous vehicles on the road for testing with no safety fallbacks. Should plans go forward as announced, Waymo should also end up being the first company to begin giving rides in fully autonomous vehicles to the general public without needing any kind of safety fallback, which would require extra resources and manpower. This means, essentially, that Waymo is all set to kick off the unowned vehicle transportation revolution that will make transport more accessible to the disabled, those who have lost their licenses, and other crowds who may not have access to traditional vehicles for any reason and whose needs and use cases may not be well-addressed by available forms of public transportation.
Waymo is not the first company to put fully autonomous vehicles on the road by any means, but are the first to do so without a human driver either in the driver seat or remotely sitting at the ready to take the wheel remotely. Likewise, Waymo is not the first company to begin giving people rides in self-driving cars. There have been multiple companies and entities making public forms of transportation like buses automated in the last few years, but none of those have operated without a safety fallback or in typical driving conditions. The only exception has been Uber, which also conducted early autonomous testing with public passengers in Arizona. Like other self-driving vehicles that have picked up passengers in the past, of course, Uber’s systems had a safety fallback.