With automative and technology companies racing to be the first ones to really crack the self driving car market, Google has announced that its project has developed into a firm called Waymo.
The name revelation has added to speculation that Google will be the first to bring safe, robot-controlled cars to the mass market within the space of a few years. CEO of the new company, John Krafcik, said that Google was getting close and getting ready.
He also announced that the firm had reached a major milestone in its development of autonomous cars. Self driving cars are being hailed as a potential breakthrough for the disabled, potentially helping people to lead much more independent lives.
Now, Mr Krafcik has revealed that a legally blind passenger drove around in one of its pod-like cars with no steering wheel or brake pads around roads in Texas, without anyone else in the vehicle. It was the first time that a Google car had been used to drive a passenger around without someone else in the car who could take control if anything were to go wrong.
Krafcik described the trip, which was undertaken by Steve Mahan, the former director of the Santa Clare Valley Blind Center, as an “inflection point” for the sector. Waymo executives firmly believe that automated cars could massively reduce the number of people killed in road accidents every year, as they take away the potential for human error, drink driving, or a disregard for the rules of the road.
While Waymo vehicles are still in R&D stages, executives have previously indicated that self driving cars will be a commonplace sight on our roads within four years. However, Krafcik has refused to be drawn in to giving any definitive timetable. Google’s parent company Alphabet, set up to look after projects which have nothing to do with its main search engine operation, is understood to have lost billions in two years, largely as a result of self-drive car research.