Google-bred Waymo aims to shift robotic cars into next gear

October 31, 2017 by Michael Liedtke
Google-bred Waymo aims to shift robotic cars into next gear
This Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, photo provided by Waymo shows a Chrysler Pacifica minivan that are equipped with Waymo's self-driving car technology, being tested at Waymo's facility in Atwater, Calif. Waymo, hatched from a Google project started eight years ago, showed off its progress Monday during a rare peek at a closely guarded testing facility located 120 miles southeast of San Francisco where its robots complete their equivalent to driver's education. (Julia Wang/Waymo via AP)

Google's self-driving car spin-off is accelerating efforts to convince the public that its technology is almost ready to safely transport people without any human assistance at all.

Waymo, hatched from a Google project started eight years ago, showed off its progress Monday during a rare peek at a closely guarded testing facility located 120 miles (193 kilometers) southeast of San Francisco. That's where its robots complete their equivalent of driver's education.

The tour included giving more than three dozen reporters rides in Chrysler Pacifica minivans traveling through faux neighborhoods and expressways that Waymo has built on a former Air Force base located in the Californian Central Valley city of Atwater.

The minivans smoothly cruised the roads—driver's seat empty and passengers in the back—at speeds of up to 35 mph (56 kph). By contrast, the Waymo-powered minivans that have been driving volunteer riders in the Phoenix area still use safety drivers to take over control if something goes wrong.

But Waymo's real goal is to get to the point where people in cars are nothing but passengers.

Waymo CEO John Krafcik told reporters that the company will be making some cars and freight trucks totally driverless fairly soon, though he didn't provide a specific timetable. "We are really close," he said. "We are going to do it when we feel like we are ready."

Google-bred Waymo aims to shift robotic cars into next gear
This Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, photo provided by Waymo shows a Chrysler Pacifica minivan equipped with Waymo's self-driving car technology, being tested with the company's employees as a biker and a pedestrian at Waymo's facility in Atwater, Calif. Waymo, hatched from a Google project started eight years ago, showed off its progress Monday during a rare peek at a closely guarded testing facility located 120 miles southeast of San Francisco where its robots complete their equivalent to driver's education. (Julia Wang/Waymo via AP)

Since Google began working on self-driving cars in 2009, dozens of established automakers such as General Motors and Ford Motors have entered the race, along with other big technology companies, including Apple and ride-hailing service Uber. The competition is so fierce and the stakes so high that Waymo is currently suing Uber , alleging that one of its former managers stole its trade secrets and took them with him when he joined Uber in 2016 as part of an elaborate scheme. The trial in that high-profile case is scheduled to begin in early December.

Waymo is hoping to infuse its technology into ride-hailing services such as its current partner, Lyft, and big-rig trucking companies. It also intends to license its automated system to automakers such as Fiat Chrysler Automobile, which is already using it in 100 Pacifica minivans.

Google-bred Waymo aims to shift robotic cars into next gear
In this Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, photo provided by Waymo, its employees place boxes as obstacles, staging "structured tests" for a white Chrysler Pacifica minivan, center, equipped with its self-driving car technology at a facility in Atwater, Calif. Waymo, hatched from a Google project started eight years ago, showed off its progress Monday during a rare peek at a closely guarded testing facility located 120 miles southeast of San Francisco where its robots complete their equivalent to driver's education. (Julia Wang/Waymo via AP)

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dogbert
1 / 5 (3) Oct 31, 2017
The minivans smoothly cruised the roads—driver's seat empty and passengers in the back—at speeds of up to 35 mph


A maximum speed of 35 mph indicates that the systems are not anywhere near a functional equivalent of human drivers.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Oct 31, 2017
A maximum speed of 35 mph indicates that the systems are not anywhere near a functional equivalent of human drivers
I dunno doggie lots of human drivers are not safe over 35mph and they're not prototypes.

We certainly don't want functional equivalents of them do we?
AlmostClever
not rated yet Oct 31, 2017
To take that a little further, humans come with variable degrees of realizable capability. That is then expressed in action across a trend line from learning then to failing. Depending what happens along the way we end up with a very wide set of skills on the road at any one time.

Further, the human lacks the capability to directly benefit from the lesson of others. Nope, listening to a story or being in the car at the time doesn't count.

However, mechanistic systems guided by updatable neural (quantum) processors can.

If you took all human driven vehicles off the road and replaced them with even current models , participating in a continuous shared learning update environment, we would realize a significant reduction in vehicular roadway deaths in the first year alone.

By year 3, collision services would be irrelevant.

Massive data sets, self guided learning neural networks, near real-time upload capability, is the promise and the threat. Ready or not here it comes!
dogbert
1 / 5 (1) Oct 31, 2017
AlmostClever,
If you took all human driven vehicles off the road and replaced them with even current models , participating in a continuous shared learning update environment, we would realize a significant reduction in vehicular roadway deaths in the first year alone.


If you took all the human driven cars and prevented them from going above 35 mph, you would also reduce traffic deaths to near zero. We can do that now and we choose not to limit our speed to 35 mph.

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