Waymo on Monday said it will soon send out its self-driving cars to the busy streets of Los Angeles.
However, the cars will have human drivers as this first stage will be for mapping the streets and determining whether Waymo’s self-driving cars are actually a good fit for the city.
Three of the vehicles will be deployed in the downtown area and the Miracle Mile section of Wilshire Boulevard initially.
Should Waymo actually test self-driving cars in L.A., it will be the most challenging routes faced by the company yet. Previous test sites don’t have the complex road structures and huge traffic volumes experienced in L.A. The other sites include smaller cities located in other parts of California as well as in Arizona, Florida, Michigan and Washington.
Waymo’s long-term goal is to develop a robust and reliable self-driving system capable of handling roads all over the world. The company doesn’t plan to manufacture self-driving cars but rather to license out the technology to other firms. This could be more than a decade away though and numerous other firms are also attempting to develop self-driving systems, including major automakers such as General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen.
Waymo appears to be the most advanced. The company’s self-driving system, known as the Waymo Driver, has already racked up 10 million miles of real-world testing. It’s an SAE Level 4 self-driving system , which means a vehicle can fully function on its own, though only within set conditions. Typically, Level 4 self-driving cars are limited to areas with sufficient map data, known as geo-fencing. The end goal is a Level 5 self-driving car, which will be able to function in all conditions expected of a human driver.
Waymo in 2018 also launched a very limited service in a section of Phoenix, Arizona. However, the service is only open to invited users of Waymo’s previous early rider program .