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.
American Center for Mobility Chooses Microsoft as Cloud Provider
Automobili Pininfarina Reveals All-Electric Supercar
Mercedes EQ and Formula E Team Up for Select Races
Amsterdam Airport Uses Heliox Chargers to Power Fleet of 100 Electric Buses
Study Finds Nissan Leaf Battery Degrades Quicker than Expected
IEEE Spectrum Announces 2018’s Top 10 Tech Cars
VW’s 1.5L TSI Engine Touts Diesel Efficiency without the Cost
New Volkswagen Touareg Plug-in Hybrid Announced in China
- Affectiva Launches Automotive AI Software to Track the Emotional State of Passengers
- BMW Will Unveil Multiple Electric Concepts in 2018
- Ford to Launch an Independent Driverless Fleet Network by 2021
- Uber Ends All of its Self-Driving Operations in California
- BP Partners With Tesla on Battery Storage for Wind Farms
- Waymo Launching Self-Driving Trucks in Atlanta
- EPA to Revise U.S. Fuel Economy Standards, Looks to Revoke California’s Stricter Requirements
- March 5, 2018 News of the Day: President Trump Threatens to Impose Tariffs on Cars Imported from the EU, Volkswagen Shows Off its Future Flagship, the I.D. VIZZION in Geneva
- China to End Foreign Ownership Caps on Local Auto Companies by 2022
- PSA Group Announces New Electric Car Division