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No Hands, Full Speed Ahead

by Michael Hendrix

Chandler, Ariz., welcomes the driverless revolution

In a quietly prosperous suburb southeast of Phoenix, a minivan is revolutionizing transportation. Oddly shaped Chrysler Pacificas, with no driver behind the wheel, swarm the streets of Chandler. They are Waymo’s boldest foray yet into autonomous vehicles. Waymo (a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet) and its competitors have helped place Arizona governor Doug Ducey and seven-term Chandler mayor Jay Tibshraeny, Republicans both, at the front lines of a technological revolution that has only just begun.

At a tech conference in Lisbon, Portugal, in November, Waymo CEO John Krafcik announced that the company was running test vehicles without a human driver. Up to that point, Waymo’s self-driving vehicles had had a human test driver behind the wheel. Now they were to operate in full autonomous mode, with the human as a passenger. “After more than eight years of development, we’re taking the next step toward unlocking the potential of fully self-driving technology,” Krafcik said. And there was more: A robo-taxi fleet is coming very soon, Krafcik promised. And all of this is happening first in Chandler.

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