Google self-driving tests expand to Phoenix, Arizona

Drivers in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area will soon see Google's fleet of autonomous vehicles testing on the city's streets, according to Reuters. The latest expansion of the tech giant's driverless car program adds to the growing list of test sites, including Mountain View, California; Austin, Texas; and Kirkland, Washington.

Google already has a fleet of mapping vehicles in Phoenix to generate the high-definition information that the autonomous vehicles need to navigate. The city's conditions drew Google to the location. "The Phoenix area has distinct desert conditions, which will help us better understand how our sensors and cars handle extreme temperatures and dust in the air," Jennifer Haroon, head of business operations for the Google Self-Driving Car project, told Reuters.

Rumors suggest that Google plans to spin off the autonomous vehicle program into a separate company. The new unit would allegedly create a driverless taxi service that people could hail from their smartphone. The tech giant's continued expansion of driverless car testing, like in Phoenix, hints there are big plans for this development. Reports claim that growth into Michigan could be next, especially around the University of Michigan's MCity test site.

Google's hiring spree for the self-driving car project also points to the company taking this development seriously, and big things could be on the way. As of February, it was looking for 36 people to add to the team. Last year, the business added former Hyundai US boss John Krafcik and Robert Rose, the development leader of Tesla's Autopilot semi-autonomous tech.

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