SAN FRANCISCO: Alphabet Inc’s Waymo will launch a ride-hailing service with no human behind the steering wheel and has been testing the fully self-driving cars on public roads in Arizona, Chief Executive John Krafcik said on Tuesday.
The test without a human in the driver’s seat is a first in the United States as large tech companies, big automakers and well-funded startups race to develop fully autonomous cars.
While self-driving car companies test their vehicles in public, they routinely have a human in the driver’s seat ready to take over if the technology fails.
Waymo said members of the public will begin riding in its fleet of Fiat Chrysler Pacifica minivans without human drivers in a test run of the service in the next few months in certain areas of Phoenix, Arizona, which has dry, predictable weather. Developers are still grappling with vehicle performance in snow or heavy rain.
Members of the public taking part in the company’s trial in Phoenix will be its first customers, using a ride-hailing app.
At first, those passengers will be accompanied in the back seat by a Waymo employee, but eventually they will travel alone, although they will be able to hit a button to stop the car.
It will roll out the service to the wider public at a later date, although it did not say when.