On Tuesday, Google confirmed a feat that’s been years in the making when it said the first “fully driverless ride” in its self-driving car had happened in Austin,Texas. Self-driving cars have been endorsed by the current Obama administration, and safety guidelines have recently been implemented after the first death in a self-driving car.
In a post on Medium, Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project company (now under parent company Alphabet), wrote about the driverless ride. According to Waymo engineer Nathaniel Fairfield, the ride happened in September 2015 with passenger Steve Mahan. It was the first driverless ride that was on a public road and wasn’t accompanied by a test driver or police escort. The car had no steering wheel or floor pedals.
The Washington Post reported Mahan, who is legally blind, said, “This is a hope of independence. These cars will change the life prospects of people such as myself. I want very much to become a member of the driving public again.”
Google’s self-driving car project began in 2009. Mahan has been a part of Google’s self-driving car testing efforts for years now: a 2012 video on YouTube shows Mahan in a Google self-driving car.
Waymo explains the self-driving cars, which have racked up over two million self-driven miles, work through sensors and software that detects the things one would encounter while driving, like other cars, people, cyclists, and road work. Waymo reports its cars can detect any of these things in any direction from as far as two football fields away. The car has also been taught to drive defensively.
In more news about driverless vehicles, on Wednesday Uber introduced self-driving cars in San Francisco.