Sacramento is now being used as a testing ground for autonomous vehicles. A human will be operating the cars but, for now, that person is likely to be in Silicon Valley.
The Capital City is contracting with Phantom Auto in Mountain View to test the driverless cars in hopes of providing Sacramentans with another travel option.
"It’s about the health and wealth of the citizens," said the City’s Chief Innovation Officer Louis Stewart. "If a car can actually come, pick up your kids and take them to their after-school activities and you can stay and work and don’t have to stress about it, I think that’s a good thing."
"Any time an autonomous vehicle runs into a scenario where it can no longer drive itself – whether that's a technological failure, a construction site where its confused, or its stuck behind a big truck and doesn't realize it should cross over two double lines, as a human knows how to do – that's when we come in and intervene," said Phantom Auto co-founder Elliott Katz.
Mayor Darrel Steinberg took the first demonstration ride, passing Sacramento's Golden One Center and State Capitol before returning to city hall.
"This was smooth and it was safe," said Steinberg. "We never felt a moment of tension or fear. It responded to all the things that a car with a driver would respond to - without ever feeling like we were jerking or stopping suddenly."
Mayor Steinberg's ride meandered along 7th, N, 10th, and I Streets, the route is the second Phantom Auto is using in the Capital City to support remotely operated driverless cars. The initial project also uses street-level 4G networks to operate "Olli," the autonomous shuttle at Sac State University.