CHANDLER, Ariz. - I was skeptical. I was apprehensive. And I was a little nervous to get inside a self-driving car.
The only encounter I've had with the car was a shoot last month involving Gov. Doug Ducey.
He got out of the car and said, "Just an incredible ride. I felt unbelievably safe and it was silky smooth. You could see the streets. You could see the turns. You could see the median. So the feeling of safety and security is really high."
"How could it feel safe, there is no driver?!" I thought. "What if someone cuts you off? What if someone rams into you? What if a kid jumps in front of the car? How is the car better than a human?"
Cue my entrance to try it out. On Thursday, the company Waymo offered rides to reporters in the Valley. Inside there was a just-in-case driver who had her hands near the wheel and foot near the gas and break.
A passenger next to her held a laptop with radar technology hooked to sensors around the vehicle.
In the back seat was Team 12 photojournalist Nick Perez, a Waymo spokesperson and me.
I had heard all the talking points about the technology being worked on and enhanced more than a decade.
The former Google self-driving project tested thousands and thousands of scenarios the cars may face. The Waymo team even said they get creative with "what if" scenarios: What if a haboob hits? What if a dog runs into a garbage can and the trash spills in front of the car? What if you have to make a lane change because of road construction?
During the ride, I felt safe. Just as safe as I would with a family member or friend (...but minus texting and driving, eating and driving, talking on the phone and driving, messing with the radio and driving, worrying about someone getting me home after two drinks).
At one point, a female driver cut us off and within milliseconds the car slowed down behind her.
The vehicle always waits one and a half seconds before accelerating after a green light change should there be a car that runs the red light.
The vehicle makes ten decisions every second and uses the radar technology to map out every stoplight, stop sign, speed bump, passing car, pedestrian, obstacle (trash can, construction, etc.) around the car.
What I have found after hearing the governor talk about it to me and from me talking to others, is it's hard to convey how safe the trip feels unless you've been inside.
And the truth is anyone who is unsure of self-driving cars will need more than an opinion blog to be convinced it's a good idea.
All I can say is, I'm glad I had the opportunity to ride along, I had a change of heart, I developed a more open-minded attitude and I can envision how this is going to be a huge industry in the future.
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