Waymo recently hosted a number of journalists at its private Castle testing compound, and treated us to rides with no safety driver behind the wheel - now, the former Google self-driving vehicle company is going farther still, however, launching public road tests of its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans with no safety driver on board.
Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. The tests, which will include passengers within the next few months, mark an important milestone that brings autonomous vehicle technology closer to operating without any human intervention. Passengers will initially be accompanied in the back seat by a Waymo employee, but will eventually travel alone in the robotic vehicle.
All of these companies have been conducting tests on public roads but with people behind the wheel ready to take control in case the cars' computer gets stuck or goes haywire. During this next phase, Waymo will slowly expand the area it operates in to cover 600 square miles.
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.
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Waymo, formerly known as the Google Self-Driving Car Project, is getting into the ride-hailing business, but with a twist.
Initially, the shortstop-free robo-cars will not carry members of the public, the company said. "One for napping; a personal dining room; a mobile office; or a vehicle just for when moving into your new place", he said. Most other companies now conducting self-driving tests are only at Level 3, a level that still requires a human operator for some (if not most) situations. This one, however, may not have anyone in the driver's seat.
Last week, Waymo hosted around 50 journalists for a first-ever look at the company's private testing facility in central California.
In April, Waymo announced it was expanding its fleet of 100 Chrysler minivans by an additional 500 vehicles and a test program - with operators behind the wheel - for families of non-Google employees to learn how people might use autonomous technology in daily life.
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