AUSTIN (KXAN) — If you see a car without a driver on the roads in Austin — you’re not dreaming.
A company that specializes in autonomous vehicle technology has begun operating its vehicles on city streets without a safety driver in the front seat.
The cars are traversing the Austin area during daytime hours and heavy traffic right now, along with pedestrians and bicyclists who share our roads.
With Lyft in particular, customers within specific service areas will be able to book a ride with a self-driving vehicle, the rideshare company announced last year. At that time, it was looking to have 1,000 autonomous Lyft vehicles in several markets over five years.
How many autonomous vehicles will drive in Austin?
As of now, Argo AI has 20 autonomous vehicles operating in Austin, with plans to expand its fleet in the coming years, an Argo AI spokesperson said Wednesday. Of those 20 vehicles, several of those are being used in pilot programs with Lyft for rideshare services and Walmart for deliveries.
As for now those, these self-driving pilot vehicles will still include a safety driver in the passenger seat.
“Right now, our pilots with Lyft and Walmart have a safety driver behind the wheel, and we’ll remove the safety driver from behind the wheel at the appropriate time,” a spokesperson said.
What safety features are in place?
Argo AI vehicles include both far and near-field cameras to detect vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists in the vicinity, along with radar technology. The system also features siren detection and steering and brake system controls.
Argo AI vehicles have the capacity to travel on roadways with posted speed limits up to 65 miles per hour, including:
- Freeways and highways
- City streets
- Suburban and rural roads
- Parking lots and garages
Argo AI vehicles can’t travel on off-road domains. The technology isn’t operable under the following weather conditions:
- Freezing rain and sleet
- Dense fog
- Extreme environmental conditions, such as hurricanes, earthquakes and landslides
Argo AI vehicles can drive in rain.
Where else is autonomous vehicle technology being tested?
In addition to Austin, Argo AI is currently testing out this technology in Miami. The company is the first of its kind to go driverless in these two major cities.
The technology is also being piloted in six other cities across the globe.
Test cities were selected for specific environmental features that could factor into safety and feasibility tests for the autonomous vehicles. For Austin, Argo AI’s safety report flagged the city for its “variety of manually- and motor-driven scooters, which are used by riders of widely varying skill levels.”