By the time you arrive in Phoenix, you may not need a driver’s license.
That’s because Waymo, Alphabet’s (GOOGL) autonomous division, its driverless vehicles pick up passengers in the downtown of the desert city.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego went for a ride in one of the Waymo-mobiles and tweeted all about it.
“I had the opportunity to take my first solo trip with the #WaymoDriver,@Waymois fully autonomous driving technology,” Gallego said Aug. 29. “Phoenicians, I can’t wait for you to experience it for yourselves!”
Gallego also tweeted a video link of its self-driving experience as the vehicle moved around town with no one behind the wheel.
“I really enjoyed traveling downtown,” Gallego said in the video. “I’m excited to have cutting-edge technology that’s clean and sustainable…it’s the technology of the future and the future is here right now in Phoenix.”
Waymo began rolling out its technology in Phoenix’s East Valley, starting with its Early Rider program — now called Trusted Tester — in 2017, followed by fully self-driving public rides in 2020.
In March, Waymo said it had extended its self-driving vehicle project to the streets of San Francisco.
Meanwhile, Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk doubled down Aug. 29 on comments made at the company’s annual meeting earlier this year that Tesla should be able to offer fully self-driving “to anyone who requests it. by the end of the year”.
Musk told an energy conference in Norway that he was focused on full-scale autonomous driving, subject to regulatory approvals, and getting SpaceX’s giant new Starship into orbit by the end of the day. of the year, Reuters reported.
The company’s current full self-driving package, or FSD, currently costs $12,000, but will cost $15,000 starting September 5.
The system allows the vehicle to autonomously stop at stop signs, park, react to traffic in cruise control mode, and steer on highways and city streets, according to the company.
The updated version would allow vehicles to drive on their own, with no human occupant required.
Musk has been a big proponent of self-driving vehicles, saying in January on Tesla’s fourth-quarter earnings call that “I’d be shocked if we don’t achieve fully self-driving that’s safer than a human this year.”
In May, Chinese tech giant Baidu (BIDU) said it received the first-ever regulatory approval in China that allows the company to offer driverless rides to the public on open roads in Beijing.
And, on Aug. 26, the country’s transportation ministry said more than ten Chinese cities had approved commercial trials of autonomous vehicles, including taxis and city buses.
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As self-driving vehicles get closer to reality, safety concerns are growing.
In 2018, Elaine Herzberg was killed when she was hit by a self-driving Uber test vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. The driver was charged with negligent homicide.
Tesla’s program has been criticized by the Dawn Project, a safe technology campaign group.
In an ad that aired on TV stations across the country, the group’s founder, Dan O’Dowd, claimed that FSD “is the worst commercial software I’ve ever seen.”
O’Dowd charged in a tweet that “our new safety test of @ElonMusk’s fully self-driving Teslas found they would mow down children indiscriminately.”
Tesla responded by sending O’Down a cease and desist letter on August 11.
cease and desist
The letter stated that O’Dowd and The Dawn Project “continue to spread misinformation about Tesla, falsely claiming that Tesla’s FSD (beta) technology will not recognize children and falsely stating that the feature will overwrite children.” children when it is activated”.
Since 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has investigated 30 crashes involving Teslas equipped with automated driving systems, including 19 fatalities.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a report on August 30 on an overnight test of automatic pedestrian emergency braking (AEB) systems, which are an important feature of autonomous vehicles.
The group said the test of 23 midsize cars, midsize SUVs and small pickup trucks found more than half got a basic score or no credit.
“As we expected, most of these pedestrian AEB systems don’t work very well in the dark,” IIHS President David Harkey said in a statement. “But it’s clear automakers can rise to this new challenge, as Ford, Nissan and Toyota each get higher ratings for certain models.
“Don’t Write It”
Additionally, a UK organization, IAM RoadSmart, said research with the University of Southampton “shows that there could be an overreliance on self-driving technology, particularly when control is switched between vehicle and the driver”.
The group said coaching “has clearly been shown to provide safer drivers in simulator studies” and urged automakers and government “to educate drivers about the capabilities of the technology, to help them understand that they must always be careful”.
In May 2021, Fox 10 Phoenix reported that a Waymo taxi went rogue near a construction site in Chandler, Arizona. after apparently being mistaken for traffic cones blocking a lane.
The wayward Waymo ran away from a support team that tried to arrest him.
Yet despite his ordeal, passenger Joel Johnson championed self-driving vehicles.
“I have over 1,000 miles in these cars and still feel safe, so don’t cancel it just because of something like this,” he said.