Automated cars being tested in Buffalo

Posted: March 8, 2024

The consumer automotive resource Edmunds predicts self-driving cars are decades away from being commercially available to ordinary Americans. 

But Buffalo drivers can get a glimpse of the future now, in March 2024, in the form of a handful of odd-looking white cars that have been visited upon the city by the Google-affiliated automated-rideshare company Waymo. A few of Waymo’s self-driving cars are here to test-drive Buffalo roads, learning how to navigate not only a different city but a city in winter. 

While the University at Buffalo has done autonomous-vehicle research since 2015, Waymo claims to be the world’s first autonomous rideshare service. The company’s motto is, “Making it safe and easy for people and things to get around — without the need for anyone in the driver’s seat.” 

The Waymo cars being tested for a short time in Buffalo will not be accepting passengers, according to some sources. The company currently has no plans to operate in Western New York, as state law doesn’t provide for automated cars. The Waymo vehicles in Buffalo will be operated by human drivers.  

On its website, Waymo touts its app-summoned cars’ 24/7 availability and the green sustainability of their fully electric motors, which are said to be “powered by 100% renewable energy.” The rideshare company is now operating in San Francisco and Phoenix with plans to soon expand into Los Angeles and Austin, its website states.  

The self-driving vehicle service has been conducting weather tests for its fleet for the past month in Buffalo. 

The purported allure of fully automated cars is that, when all the bugs are worked out and they’re commercially available to the average consumer, they will make roads safer. 

Experts disagree on how often drivers are to blame for motor vehicle crashes. Many accidents can be traced to a complex stew of factors. Instead of or in addition to human error, collisions also are variously caused by the vehicle or the environment, while still others have unknown causes. But more than one study has found human error to be a factor in most crashes, which is why many people expect fully automated vehicles to make for safer roads.  

“Vehicle safety promises to be one of automation’s biggest benefits,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Higher levels of automation, referred to as automated driving systems, remove the human driver from the chain of events that can lead to a crash.” 

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