Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google’s Alphabet Inc. recently launched an educational campaign to convince skeptics on the safety and value of driverless vehicles. The “Let’s Talk Self-Driving” campaign involves other groups including the National Safety Council, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and the Federation for Blind Children. The group hopes to show how self-driving cars, trucks, and vans could eradicate most vehicle deaths caused by drunk drivers and would provide wide-ranging transportation options for the blind.
The company began promoting self-driving pilot cars in Arizona to prove the safety of driverless vehicles in the hope of raising awareness on how advancements and technology can save lives. For months, the Company has operated autonomous minivans throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area, focusing their attention on the city of Chandler. Recently, Waymo removed the human from behind the steering wheel. In the months ahead, passengers will be invited into the vehicles to travel about the town in a ride-hailing service without a driver.
The campaign hopes to respond to a lot of unanswered questions concerning the practicality of a driverless “Uber” type service. The company CEO John Krafcik stated that “full self-driving cars are here” now that Waymo is to the point where they can finally produce profits generated by robot chauffeurs. Krafcik says the company accomplished the feat of offering driverless vehicles because “we’ve built some unique safety features into this minivan. Our system runs thousands of checks on itself every second. With these checks, our systems can instantly diagnose any problems and pull over or come to a safe stop if needed.”
Why Waymo Chose Phoenix
Waymo did not just randomly pick Arizona as a test site. Instead, they selected the state because of its pleasant weather, uncomplicated road system and that they could start driving without special permissions from the government. Their choice helps them avoid hazardous roads, icy streets, dangerous potholes and complicated intersections. Krafcik has said that once the ride-hailing service is up and running, Waymo will expand in the Phoenix service area out to more than 600 square miles that encompass the entire city.
Waymo is finally reaching the final steps of the massive project that began in 2009. Since then, the company has considered selling their advanced autonomous technology to car and truck makers to install in newly manufactured vehicles. Until then, Alphabet, Inc. is counting on their ride-hailing service to bring the technology to the forefront.
At first, passengers will be accompanied in the vehicle by a Waymo employee although, they will likely be riding for free in the first few months. However, there are still a few tweaks to the system that need to be worked out. The company has yet to disclose the hours the vehicles will be available and the areas of town that will be accessible to commuters using the ride-hailing service.
It is not clear how the company will handle passengers who become too nervous to stay in the car without jumping behind the wheel to take control. Also, Waymo has not yet said how they will insure the vehicle and passengers and when the government will enact laws and regulations to govern autonomous cars and trucks on American roads.
Why Autonomous Driving Is Safer
Every global company working on self-driving vehicles recognizes that robotic cars are potentially safer than vehicle driven by humans because the technology eliminates the risk of driving distracted, or driving drowsy, fatigued or drunk. Ride-hailing cars or proving to be safer already because they are reducing congestion, limiting the amount of pollution generated in urban areas, and keeping many private vehicles off the road.
Nearly every autonomous vehicle accident is the result of human driver error when other vehicles crash into the autonomously operated driverless car or van. As the technology moves forward, researchers and developers will likely perfect driverless vehicles in just a few years. Because of that, legislatures must move quickly to enact laws that handle rules and regulations concerning safety. Legislatures will need to assist health insurance companies in determining how to provide liability coverage on vehicles involved in accidents where no driver is behind the wheel.