Google parent Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL), has begun testing its driverless cars in Phoenix Arizona having carried out tests in California for the past six years. Phoenix becomes the fourth major city that the tech giant has expanded into, having also carried out tests in Texas and Austin last summer. The company is also planning to carry out similar tests in Kirkland and Washington.
Arizona being a center of research and development allows Google to continue testing its cars away from stringent regulations. Phoenix’s distinct desert conditions will also help the company better understand how sensors fitted in the car can perform under extreme temperatures and dust.
Google test drivers have already made runs across the city with a view of first creating a map for the streets as well as lane markers and traffic signals.
Just like other tech companies, Google is racing against time to advance its self-driving technology. Safety regulations have so far been a major impediment on the testing of the cars ahead of a potential deployment.
The tech giant has carried out most of the tests in California where a regulatory pressure has been a major headwind. California rules currently require all robot test vehicles on the road to have a steering wheel, brake pedals, as well as a licensed driver on-board.
Tests have so far panned out well albeit with a minor accident in February that saw one of the self-driving cars crash into a municipal bus in Mountain View. The incident marked the first accident that saw Google taking full responsibility. The tech giant has since made changes to the software as it seeks to avoid future incidents.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to carry out two public hearings this week. During the meeting, the agency intends to take ideas and suggestions that it plans to use to formulate regulations for governing self-driving vehicles. Given the success Google has achieved so far, the agency says it could consider its artificial intelligence system as a driver under federal laws.