Waymo Autonomous Vans to Operate Without Backup Driver
【Summary】Google's sister company, Waymo, is now operating self-driving minivans without a backup driver.
A vehicle isn't truly autonomous until it ditches the human behind the wheel. Automotive development company, Waymo, plans to have its vehicles do exactly that.
Losing the Human Driver
For years, Waymo has been hard at work developing a fleet of self-driving minivans in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Until now though, the vans have had too many problems to roll solo.
Waymo is owned by Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc. Head of Alphabet, Sergey Brin, has promised a road-worthy autonomous car for the past 5 years. But so far, no dice. Will things be different this time around?
Maybe. Waymo's self-driving Chrysler Pacifica's have proven themselves on a closed track. The vans went driverless around the company's Castle test facility, in Atwater, California. Not surprisingly, journalist from all over turned out for the event. Many were treated to rides in the vans, sans driver.
Take a Ride in a Waymo Minivan
So, what's it like to ride in a Waymo minivan? Currently, the interior isn't much different than that of a standard Chrysler Pacifica. The only exception is the screens mounted in the front seat backs. To ease passenger anxiety, these displays play a soothing cartoon depicting the vehicle's surroundings. Of course, they also play the obligatory "Buckle Up" message before departure.
Many people don't trust a vehicle to navigate on its own. For this reason, the screens display messages to explain the van's actions. For example, it tells passengers when the vehicle is stopping for pedestrians, or when it's picking up more riders.
Speaking of which, so far, passenger pickup and drop off has been one of Waymo's greatest hurdles. In one instance, the van dropped passengers off into patch of cacti, according to IEEE. No doubt those patrons declined to leave their robo taxi driver a tip.
In case your Waymobile decides to drop you off into a bunch of cacti – or worse – the vehicles are equipped with a ‘Help' button. If a robo-chauffer goes rogue, passengers also have control of the door locks and there's a ‘Pull Over' button.
Level 4 Autonomy Takes to the Streets
Waymo's VP of engineering says the company's plan is different from that of its competitors. Instead of starting out by introducing Level 3 autonomy, like Tesla has done, Waymo intends to go straight to Level 4. From the start, the company has built its vans with this goal in mind.
As Waymo's CEO John Krafcik puts it, "We've redesigned our vehicle around the needs of the rider, not the driver."
As of earlier this week, Waymo announced it has broken free of the test track. It's now trying vehicles on public roads without a backup driver, according to the New York Times. Currently, testing is limited and restricted to the Phoenix area. So, if you want to be an early adapter, head down to Arizona to catch a ride.
Mia is an ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician, L1, L2 and L3 Advanced Level Specialist. She has over 12 years of experience in the automotive industry and a bachelor’s degree in automotive technology. These skills have been applied toward content writing, technical writing, inspections, consulting, automotive software engineering.
Recent Study Shows Drivers Still Fear Autonomous Vehicles
Demand for Lithium-Ion Batteries Expected to Double by 2024
Honda Installs Large Solar Array at its California Campus
Research Report Predicts 10.79 Million EVs by 2025
General Motors Commits to Focus on Sustainability
BorgWarner Opens New Technical Center Dedicated to Electric Vehicles
Volkswagen Uses Quantum Computing to Develop EV Batteries
Ryder Rental Truck Company Commits to 500 Electric Vans
- Selling More Expensive Tesla Model 3s Will Keep Company Alive
- Honda Joins Baidu’s Apollo Autonomous Driving Platform to Create HD Maps
- Mercedes-Benz Invests $598 Million in Hambach Plant to Expand EV Production
- CAAM Highlights Double-digit Growth in Car Sales for China
- Faraday Future Appoints Ford Motor Co. Executive as New VP Of Finance
- Magna, JBEV Partner to Build Electric Cars in China
- Tesla to Cut 9 Percent of its Workforce in a ‘Difficult But Necessary’ Move
- BMW Granted Permission to Test Autonomous Cars in China
- Uber, Lime Partner to Add Electric Scooters to Transportation Lineup
- Cities May Use Autonomous Drones to Repair Potholes in the Future