Waymo Names Atlanta as the Next Test City for its Self-Driving Minivans

Author: Eric Walz   

Waymo continues to expand its autonomous driving testing beyond California. Waymo announced that it's bringing its self-driving minivans to Atlanta, the ninth largest metro area in the U.S. with over five million residents.

In a tweet on Monday night, Alphabet's self-driving car affiliate said it has chosen metro Atlanta as the next location to test its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans. Waymo is already testing vehicles with riders on public roads in Chandler, Arizona, and has also been operating autonomous tests in California, Austin, Texas and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

"Now that we have the world's first fleet of fully self-driving cars on public roads, we're focused on taking our technology to a wide variety of cities and environments. We're looking forward to our testing in Metro Atlanta, and the opportunity to bring this lifesaving technology to more people in more places." Waymo released in a statement.

The Atlanta region is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country. It's a major hub for transportation of all kinds, and there's a lot of potential for self-driving technology in the region. Local leaders, including Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, have shown that they're committed to innovation and technology, and Waymo said it's looking forward to testing in the area.

"With our talented workforce and legacy of innovation, Georgia is at the forefront of the most dynamic, cutting edge industries like autonomous vehicles. We are thrilled to welcome Waymo to our state because fully self-driving vehicle technology holds tremendous potential to improve road safety, and we are proud Georgia is paving the way for the future of transportation." Gov. Deal released in a statement.

Waymo has already started mapping some parts of the Atlanta metro area, with a human operator driving one of Waymo's self-driving minivans equipped with sensors for building maps, including LiDAR which bounces a laser beam off various objects such as curbs, traffic signals, and stop signs to create a detailed, 3D model of the world. Once the mapping is completed, Waymo will be able to deploy its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans in the city.

Waymo has been running an autonomous ride-hailing pilot program for Arizona residents since early last year, and said in November that it would begin to take safety drivers out of the driver's seat within the next few months.

The move to Atlanta suggests the self-driving technology company is ready to take on higher-traffic situations. The city ranks the ninth most-congested metro area in the world, just behind just Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco for the worst traffic in the U.S., according to the Inrix Traffic Scorecard.

Waymo has also been testing in San Francisco, along with General Motors owned Cruise Automation. Lyft rival Uber is also conducting mapping operations in San Francisco for its own autonomous driving Volvo XC90's.

Waymo has been working on self-driving technology since 2009, first as the Google self-driving car project and now as its own independent Alphabet company with the goal to make roads safer and save lives.

Eric Walz
Originally from New Jersey, Eric is an automotive and technology reporter specializing in the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley. Eric has over fifteen years of automotive experience and a B.A. in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the automotive industry and beyond. He has worked on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology. Outside of work, Eric likes to travel to new places, play guitar, and explore the outdoors.
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