Self-driving car company Waymo is planning to more than double its driverless car operations in Arizona this year with a new Technical Service Center in Mesa. According to a report in the Arizona Republic, Waymo brought its driverless cars to Chandler, Arizona, in 2016 and now has a 60,000-square-foot garage and operations center there with hundreds of vehicles driving test routes and carrying passengers in the region.
Visions of Growth and Expansion
More than 20,000 people have signed up on the company’s website to participate in the “early rider” program, which is used to test public interaction with the vehicles and the company’s capabilities. Waymo is owned by the same company as Google and does not disclose exactly operate in Arizona. It only states that a majority of its 600 self-driving vehicles operating nationwide are here.
In December, Waymo kicked off a paid ride service called Waymo One using its autonomous vehicles. This is similar to rideshare services such as Lyft or Uber although safety drivers sit behind the wheel in those vehicles most of the time. Waymo officials say they aim to grow the service over time to become a national and then international service available to the broader public.
Problems in Arizona
Waymo issued a statement saying Arizona is a good place to test and expand for many reasons, but especially because Phoenix is an “innovation-minded region.” Driverless cars were first welcomed to Arizona in 2015. Tech companies have been able to test these vehicles without too many legal restrictions here.
However, a fatal pedestrian accident involving a driverless Uber vehicle in Tempe, caused the rideshare company to halt its operations until issues related to that crash could be sorted out. In addition, some Arizona cities have seen significant hostility toward driverless vehicles. In Chandler, Arizona, individuals have been reported as slashing tires and pelting rocks at Waymo driverless vehicles.
The Issue of Safety
As auto defect attorneys, our main concern is about the safety of the public. We know from numerous reports and semi-autonomous and autonomous driving technology is simply not ready for primetime. By testing these vehicles on public roadways, tech companies are putting the public in harm’s way.
There are a number of glitches that need to be ironed out and regulatory hurdles that must be cleared before these driverless vehicles can become a reality on our roadways. We understand the energy and enthusiasm to innovate and create cutting-edge technology. But that should never, ever come at the cost of human lives.