San Francisco’s self-driving cars no longer need a safety driver

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For the first time, a Waymo self-driving car successfully completed a journey in San Francisco without the assistance of a human safety driver on Wednesday.

The excursion involved a Jaguar I-Pace equipped with Waymo’s self-driving technology picking up an employee to drive them to have their morning coffee and then transporting them to work as well.

Waymo’s self-driving vehicles have been offering lifts to Waymo workers in San Francisco since mid-2021, albeit they have always been accompanied by a safety driver in the passenger seat. The cars will now be able to operate without the assistance of a safety driver, albeit elevators will only be available to personnel.

When the first members of the public will be able to ride in one of Waymo’s self-driving cars in San Francisco has not yet been announced by the company. Cruise, the company’s main competitor, also has self-driving cars that operate on the city’s congested roads without the assistance of a safety driver. Cruise began allowing members of the public to sign up for rides in February, though the company has not stated when the first public ride will take place.

Over the course of more than 12 years, Waymo has been conducting self-driving car tests in San Francisco, beginning when the business was still only a skunkworks division under its parent company, Google. However, Waymo One, the company’s first self-driving service that will be available to the general public, will be launched in Phoenix, Arizona, starting in 2020. Waymo said on Wednesday that the service has been launched in Phoenix’s East Valley and will soon be expanded to the city’s downtown area.

Even while Waymo is now reliant on normal vehicles such as the Jaguar I-Pace and the Chrysler Pacifica for its self-driving cars, the business may possibly switch to a specialized vehicle in the future. Waymo said in December that it will add an electric shuttle created by Zeekr to its fleet in the United States, and prototypes of the vehicle are now being tested.

According to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Waymo’s self-driving system, known as the Waymo Driver, is ranked at Level 4 in terms of self-driving capability because it is capable of driving on its own, though with certain restrictions, the most significant of which is that it must stay within a geofenced area. Level 5 is the ultimate aim, since it indicates a system that is capable of driving at the same level as a human driver.

Ultimately, Waymo wants to build a stable and dependable self-driving system that is capable of operating on every road in the globe, even those in rural areas. However, the business does not want to produce self-driving cars, but rather to provide the technology as a service or to sell it directly to other companies through a licensing agreement. The business is working on building a system that can be used in both passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles such as delivery vans and semi-trailers. Waymo Via is the brand name for Waymo’s self-driving delivery service.

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