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Waymo rolls out autonomous Pacificas without human drivers

Fri Nov 10, 2017 6:29 pm

Waymo rolls out autonomous Pacificas without human drivers
CBC News
By , The Associated Press · Nov 7, 2017
A self-driving car company created by Google is pulling the human backup driver from behind the steering wheel and will test vehicles on public roads with only an employee in the back seat.
The move by Waymo, which started Oct. 19 with an automated Chrysler Pacifica minivan in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, Arizona, is a major step toward vehicles driving themselves without human backups on public roads.
Waymo, which is owned by Google's parent company Alphabet, is in a race with other companies such as Delphi, General Motors, Intel, Uber, Apple and Lyft to bring autonomous vehicles to the public. The companies say the robot cars are safer than human drivers because they don't get drowsy, distracted or drunk.
Google has long stated its intent to skip driver-assist systems and go directly to fully autonomous driving. The Waymo employee in the back seat won't be able to steer the minivan, but like all passengers, will be able to press a button to bring the van safely to a stop if necessary, Waymo said.
Within a "few months," the fully autonomous vans will begin carrying volunteer passengers who are now taking part in a Phoenix-area test that includes use of backup drivers.
Waymo CEO John Krafcik, who was to make the announcement Tuesday at a conference in Portugal, said the company intends to expand the testing to the entire 600-square-mile Phoenix area and eventually bring the technology to more cities around the world. It's confident that its system can handle all situations on public roads without human intervention, he said.
"To have a vehicle on public roads without a person at the wheel, we've built some unique safety features into this minivan," Krafcik said in remarks prepared for the conference. "Our system runs thousands of checks on itself every second. With these checks, our systems can instantly diagnose any problems and pull over or come to a safe stop if needed."
GM could be next to remove drivers
The company also says it has redundant braking, steering, power and computing systems so it never has to rely on a human driver.
Sam Abuelsamid, senior analyst for Navigant Research, says Waymo's tests without a human backup are the first to his knowledge on public roads at normal speeds. The company picked Phoenix because weather conditions are ideal for testing with no snow and little rain, he said, adding that Waymo knows its system isn't ready yet for inclement weather even with camera, radar and laser sensors.
"This demonstrates Waymo's confidence in the ability of these vehicles to function at least in this environment," Abuelsamid said.
He expects General Motors and its Cruise Automation autonomous vehicle unit to be the next to announce testing without human backups, followed by auto parts maker Delphi, which recently acquired Massachusetts Institute of Technology self-driving software startup nuTonomy.
Waymo wouldn't say how many vehicles will be in the initial test or exactly how wide an area it will cover. The test will take place in a small area at first, then spread to portions of five cities and 100 square miles in the Phoenix area. Eventually it will go to whole metro area.
The company also wouldn't say how many minivans are taking part in the initial testing. It has a fleet of 100 autonomous vans in Phoenix, with plans to add 500.
Cars will make driving decisions
Waymo says it has an operations team that can answer questions from the cars' computers, but the cars will make driving decisions.
The company said it has been testing its autonomous systems for the past eight years with more than five million miles logged on public roads.
Self-driving car competition between the auto industry and tech companies is fierce. The stakes are so high that Waymo is currently suing ride-hailing company 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 Automobiles, which makes the Pacifica minivan.
Well I like the advancements in technology and hope this one does a lot better than the one in Vegas


Posts: 127
Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2016 11:03 pm

Re: Waymo rolls out autonomous Pacificas without human drivers

Fri Nov 10, 2017 6:42 pm

I think we all see it as a great idea but no all of us think it can be done in a safe manner
Peter Thiel isn't so sure self-driving tech is a good investment
Connie Loizos · Oct 27, 2017
Peter Thiel doesn't like investing in trends, he's fond of saying. It's a mantra he repeated this week at the Future Investment Initiative, an investment forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he took the stage with journalist Maria Bartiromo.
Asked about where he's investing, he noted that he's looking outside of Silicon Valley largely, but he suggested he doesn't put much stock in "buzzwords" like SaaS software or virtual computing or augmented reality or artificial intelligence. "Even though these trends may or may not happen, as investments, they're dangerous," he said. In fact, "when you hear buzzwords, you should run away as fast as you can," he added. Otherwise, there are "many companies of that kind, and many competitors."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Thiel feels the same way about self-driving technologies -- even while his venture firm, Founders Fund, is an investor in the ride-sharing company Lyft, whose future would seem to depend on its ability to become a self-driving company at some point.
All that said, he made one exception -- he said that he's willing to "look at trends that aren't on anybody's radar."
In fact, one trend that he said he thinks merits far more attention that it receives today, perhaps because it doesn't challenge the mind in the same way as self-driving cars or flying planes might, is good-old telecommuting and how the inevitable rise of it will change the landscape.
Indeed, asked about the future of transportation, Thiel seemed to suggest there might not be much need for it, at least, not by individuals needing to get to the jobs.
Said Thiel:
Certainly, just the shift to companies like Uber or Lyft, which I'm invested in, is itself a big change. The self-driving car trend is an important trend for the economy; it will change consumer behavior tremendously. If you had self-driving cars, you could have a longer commute because you could work in the car.
I'm not sure it's a good investment [emphasis ours], because there are a lot of companies doing similar technologies in self-driving cars and it's hard to know how differentiated they are.
The transportation-related technology that I wonder about more than self-driving cars is, is there some way to do an end run around our broken transportation systems, and the IT version that people have talked about for decades is telecommuting.
So, will there be some way that you won't need transportation at all, and you can just do your work remotely? For a variety of reasons, this hasn't worked for the last 30 to 40 years and it hasn't worked for one reason or another [including concerns that] when people work from home, they don't work as hard, that a lot of the value of work comes from talking with people.
But I think we're starting to see more of this telecommuting in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, where people are finding small teams of developers outside of Silicon Valley. There are ways to allocate the work to different people.
So . . . telecommuting, that's a trend that's worth exploring a lot more, that's underrated.
You can check out more of Thiel's chat with Bartiromo here.
Unfortunately -- and possibly as a condition of his appearance -- there was no talk about his work with the Trump administration.

Posts: 37
Joined: Wed Oct 26, 2016 11:58 pm

Re: Waymo rolls out autonomous Pacificas without human drivers

Fri Nov 10, 2017 6:49 pm

Maybe Peter Theil feels this way because look at Tesla and Vegas
Las Vegas launches driverless shuttle bus. It gets in a crash less than two hours later
National Post
The Associated Press · Nov 8, 2017
LAS VEGAS — The robots won this one.
A driverless shuttle bus was involved in a minor crash with a semi-truck less than two hours after it made its debut on Las Vegas streets Wednesday in front of cameras and celebrities.
The human behind the wheel of the truck was at fault, police said.
Las Vegas police officer Aden Ocampo-Gomez said the semi-truck’s driver was cited for illegal backing. No injuries were reported.
“The shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that it’s (sic) sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident,” the city said in a statement. “Unfortunately the delivery truck did not stop and grazed the front fender of the shuttle. Had the truck had the same sensing equipment that the shuttle has the accident would have been avoided.”

A driverless shuttle bus collided with a big rig in Las Vegas Wednesday.
The oval-shaped shuttle that can transport up to 12 people has an attendant and computer monitor, but no steering wheel and no brake pedals. It uses GPS, electronic curb sensors and other technology to make its way. It was developed by the French company Navya and was tested in January in Las Vegas.
At the unveiling ceremony, officials promoted it as the nation’s first self-driving shuttle pilot project geared toward the public.
Before it crashed, dozens of people had lined up to get a free trip on a 0.6-mile loop in downtown Las Vegas. City spokesman Jace Radke said the shuttle took two more loops after the crash.
NASCAR driver Danica Patrick and magic duo Penn and Teller were among the first passengers.
The transportation company Keolis is operating the shuttle. Its vice president of mobility solutions, Maurice Bell, said the bus will scoot through Las Vegas at no more than 15 mph. AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah, which is sponsoring the one-year pilot project, expects that 250,000 people will use the shuttle.
Las Vegas resident Stacey Gray and her dog Socrates were among the first to board the bus Wednesday. She said the drive was so smooth that she couldn’t even tell she was in a car, but approaching the intersection made her a little nervous.
“A little bit of that looking around and you know wondering if it was going to stop, and ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a car behind us, kind of little hesitation,’” she said. “But it stopped and it was fine.”
Uber driverless car flips on its side in Arizona crash but company says someone was behind the wheel
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A police officer at the scene of an accident between a self-driving shuttle and a truck in downtown Las Vegas on Wednesday.

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Joined: Wed Feb 15, 2017 12:05 am

Re: Waymo rolls out autonomous Pacificas without human drivers

Mon Nov 13, 2017 12:57 am

Send a technology is fantastic and for company owners such as Lyft or taxi drivers it will really enable them to reap all the monetary benefits of not having to hire people and provide benefits but I'm not a big fan of the big rigs yet and because of the weight load and the size Factor one small accident will have huge ramifications with the big rigs

Posts: 69
Joined: Wed Feb 15, 2017 12:05 am

Re: Waymo rolls out autonomous Pacificas without human drivers

Wed Nov 15, 2017 6:38 pm

Waymo is one company doing its due diligence in this area - hats off to them

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