Alphabet's Waymo to launch robotaxis with no human in driver's seat

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Neither Krafcik nor the company's reps shared exactly what has given the company the confidence to declare their vehicles "fully" self-driving, but it appears that Waymo has achieved Level 4 autonomy, which means the auto can handle every aspect of the driving experience on its own without need for human intervention.

"Our ultimate goal is to bring our fully self-driving technology to more cities in the US and around the world", John Krafcik, Waymo's chief, said in prepared remarks at a technology conference in Portugal on Tuesday.

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The completely autonomous vehicles will at first only transport Waymo employees, but the public will eventually be invited to ride inside, too.

Waymo executives see removing the human backstop as a natural part of the evolution of their rigorous technology - and as a vital step in finally tapping all the commercial and social benefits they and other advocates of autonomous driving promise.

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.

Dozens of companies are testing self-driving technology on public roads across the United States and some autonomous features are available in today's cars.

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At first, those passengers will be accompanied in the back seat by a Waymo employee, but eventually they will travel alone, although they will be able to hit a button to stop the vehicle.

Last week, US auto retailer AutoNation Inc announced a multiyear partnership for vehicle maintenance and repairs for Waymo's self-driving car operations.

Initially, the shortstop-free robo-cars will not carry members of the public, the company said. The company recently released a huge safety report that claimed its cars had driven 3.5 million miles over public roads and 2.5 billion in simulation.

Waymo chief executive John Krafcik used the Web Summit in Lisbon to announce a portion of its fleet in the Phoenix area will operate in fully autonomous mode with the cars handling all the driving.

The Arma programme was slated to last one year. "Because they no longer have to be designed around a driver, just people", Krafcik said.

And because Waymo is operating its vehicles in Arizona, where the laws regulating autonomous tests are practically non-existent, a lot of the reporting on the progress of these vehicles will be incredibly one-sided. He ticked off the ways driverless cars could be redesigned if the vehicle didn't need space for a driver: to ferry groceries, as a "personal dining room" or for naps.