Waymo Plans to Unleash Robocar Service

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【Summary】Rumor has it that Google's sister company, Waymo, is rolling out a robocar service.

Mia Bevacqua    Oct 11, 2017 10:55 AM PT
Waymo Plans to Unleash Robocar Service
author: Mia Bevacqua   

The race to produce a commercial self-driving car is on. Big names such as Apple and Tesla are hard at work trying to put robocars on the road. But it looks like Waymo might beat them to the punch. The company says its ready to release an autonomous ride-sharing program in Phoenix. Maybe. 


Preparing for the robocar takeover

Waymo has taken out advertisements in the Phoenix area touting its self-driving cars. It's also teamed up with non-profits to send a positive message to robocar sceptics. But, despite all the hoopla, Waymo has yet to deploy its self-driving fleet. When IEEE Spectrum asked Waymo if it was ready to release its autonomous rides, the company declined to comment. 

Though far from a household name, Waymo is a spin-off of Google's self-driving car project. In fact, both Waymo and Google are owned by the same parent company, Alphabet. Rumors have it that there has been some conflict between the Alphabet gang. This may have contributed to the delayed release of the Waymobile. 

This song and dance is nothing new. Five years ago, head of Alphabet, Sergey Brin promised to have an autonomous car on the road in five years.  Well, the time is up and so far, commercial vehicles are still piloted by humanoids. 

If Waymo does unleash its high-tech fleet on Arizona, there will be a backup driver onboard. Kind of defeats the purpose of an autonomous car, doesn't it? 

Humans still needed

Bugs are the reason Waymo's car still requires a driver made of flesh and bone. According to an article in TheInformation, the vehicles still have trouble making left turns into traffic. No left turns – that could make driving difficult.

The cars also have a hard time going new places. They rely heavily on their navigation maps (not unlike many human drivers). As a result, they don't fare well in places like strip mall parking lots. 

You might be wondering, why Phoenix Arizona? According to IEEE Spectrum, this area is primo robocar real estate. Reasons are, the cities simple intersections, mild weather and lenient legal environment. 

If you're not convinced of Waymo's plans, the company has posted a YouTube video to change your mind. It features a suburban family, a Waymo self-driving car and a bunch of bad acting. Check it out for yourself. 

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