Autonomous cars developed by Alphabet subsidiary Waymo have now driven over 20 million miles on public roads.
The milestone was announced during this year’s CES in Las Vegas and shows how Waymo’s driverless technology is almost ready for widespread deployment.
Speaking at a dinner hosted by Fortune, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said: “You need to have a lot of real world experience, there’s no way to avoid it.”
While autonomous vehicles have been involved in accidents, Waymo has managed to avoid – so far, at least – any fatalities like the one which gave Uber’s driverless car project such bad publicity.
That’s not to say the company hasn’t been in the headlines. Back in 2017, Waymo took legal action against former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski claiming he stole confidential information about the company’s work and took it to Uber.
Waymo’s driverless car project began, to some extent, in 2009 at Google before Alphabet was established and various subsidiaries were created. The project was known at the time as Chauffeur.
Chauffeur took around a decade to reach 10 million miles on public roads. Krafcik says the company has now doubled that mileage in just over a year in what amounts to circling the globe around 800 times.
While driverless technologies are now fairly advance, the regulatory environment to support them is still nascent. Until regulations catch up, driverless cars will be reserved to select areas.
One of these areas is Phoenix. In 2017, passengers could hail a ride in an autonomous car that featured a backup safety driver. As of last year, passengers in Phoenix are now able to hail a truly driverless car without a backup.
When asked for a timescale of when Waymo’s driverless car service might expand beyond Phoenix, Krafcik only responded: “We’re considering moving that to other cities.”
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