Inside Waymo's self-driving car testing grounds

A Waymo self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan at its Castle testing grounds. Photo: Waymo

ATWATER, Calif. — For the past four years, Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving car unit, has been quietly testing its technology in a former air force base three hours away from San Francisco. On Monday, it invited several journalists to experience a fully driverless ride—albeit along a preset and highly practiced course—as well as observe some testing exercises and hear from some of the company's executives.

Why it matters: Self-driving cars are undoubtedly the future. But getting there is incredibly complex, even for companies like Waymo, that have sophisticated technology and lots of experience (i.e. 3.5 million autonomous miles under its belt). Monday's demonstrations showed all that promise, but also reinforced that a truly driverless future is still quite far away.