It’s been a long time coming, but finally we have entered the age of truly driverless cars. And it’s happening outside of Phoenix.
The lucky suburb of Chandler, Arizona now has a fleet of automomous vehicles on the streets, with no one behind the wheel. According to Fortune, 100 Chrysler Pacifica minivans sans drivers are cruising the streets in a geo-fenced area of about 100 square miles. The geofence will eventually be extended to 600 square miles, a huge chunk of the Phoenix metropolitan area.
While speaking at the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, the Alphabet subsidiary’s CEO John Krafick announced that the self-driving vehicles (SDVs) will initially be available to a select group of people — but will soon be open to the general public in a ride-hailing service.
Industry observers expect that the ride service will be provided by Waymo’s alliance partner Lyft.
One reason for the Arizona debut for Waymo is the laissez-faire attitude of that state’s auto regulations, which give free rein to autonomous vehicles. California’s stricter regimen has limited road testing of SDVs in the Golden State.
Coming as this does in the same week as a fender bender of a driverless shuttle in Las Vegas, the timing isn’t great for Waymo. But for anyone concerned with safety on the roads, the debut in Chandler is a historic day for American drivers that couldn’t come soon enough.