Fully driverless Waymo taxis are due out this year, alarming critics

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Enlarge / John Krafcik on November 7, 2017—the day Waymo began testing fully driverless cars with no one behind the wheel. (credit: Horacio Villalobos - Corbis/Getty Images)

Waymo, Google's self-driving car project, is planning to launch a driverless taxi service in the Phoenix area in the next three months. It won't be a pilot project or a publicity stunt, either. Waymo is planning to launch a public, commercial service—without anyone in the driver's seat.

And to date, Waymo's technology has gotten remarkably little oversight from government officials in either Phoenix or Washington, DC.

If a company wants to sell a new airplane or medical device, it must undergo an extensive process to prove to federal regulators that it's safe. Currently, there's no comparable requirement for self-driving cars. Federal and state laws allow Waymo to introduce fully self-driving cars onto public streets in Arizona without any formal approval process.

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