Alphabet's Waymo just pulled ahead of the competition. 

On Tuesday, the technology giant's autonomous car unit announced that it has deployed roughly 100 vehicles on public roads--without human drivers. That makes it the first company in the potentially multi-trillion dollar category to do so. 

"We're not building a better car--we're building a better driver," said Waymo CEO John Krafcik on stage at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, Portugal. "This is a big step forward to achieving our ultimate goal."

Waymo has been test-driving its vehicles in the Pheonix metro area since 2016--but always with humans ready to intervene.

Meanwhile, rival Uber has been test-driving its own autonomous vehicles with drivers in Pittsburgh. The two companies have been embroiled in a legal battle over the past several months, with Waymo alleging that Anthony Levandowski--a former Uber engineer--stole thousands of trade secrets from Google. Levandowski had left Waymo to launch his own autonomous trucking business, Otto, which Uber purchased last year for $680 million. A trial is set for the beginning of December. 

For now, the Waymo vehicles are being tested only in a "geo-fenced" area in the quiet Phoenix suburb of Chandler, about 600 square miles. The vehicles come equipped with advanced sensor technology--called LiDAR--which can detect objects from more than 300 feet away, and in three-dimensions. The vans are completing all different types of driving techniques, including more complicated types of left-hand turns. 

Krafcik adds that Waymo intends to launch its own ride-hailing startup with self-driving cars in the not-too-distant future. 

The news also comes just weeks after the company agreed to invest $1 billion in ride-hailing giant Lyft. Together, the companies released a safety report outlining the focus on self-driving vehicles.

"When people feel confident and comfortable in a fully self-driving vehicle, more of us will want to use them in our daily lives," Krafcik added on stage. "The way we think about mobility and transportation can fundamentally change, too."

Published on: Nov 7, 2017