In 2019, We’ll Have Taxis Without Drivers—or Steering Wheels (1-3-19)

Illustration: Blood Bros.

A coming milestone in the automobile world is the widespread rollout of Level 4 autonomy, where the car drives itself without supervision. Waymo, the company spun out of Google’s self-driving car research, said it would start a commercial Level 4 taxi service by late 2018, although that hadn’t happened as of press time. And GM Cruise, in San Francisco, is committed to do the same in 2019, using a Chevrolet Bolt that has neither a steering wheel nor pedals.

These cars wouldn’t work in all conditions and regions—that’s why they’re on rung 4 and not rung 5 of the autonomy ladder. But within some limited operational domain, they’ll have the look and feel of a fully robotized car. The question is how constrained that domain will be.

Read Full Story Here (via IEEE Spectrum)

Designing Self-Driving Cars for the Elderly (12-26-18)

The motoring world is set to witness a significant shift in the months and years to come, as autonomous vehicles begin to be used on public roads. Google has already revealed that it is trialing its automated technology in real-world situations, for instance, while both Lexus and Mercedes have confirmed that they are among the big-name vehicle manufacturers to be working on autonomous car technology. Across the Atlantic in the UK, Tesla has been putting its driverless Autopilot system through the paces too. There are also rumors that BMW and Apple are collaborating to create a vehicle which may well be automated.

A lot is going on when it comes to the topic of self-driving vehicles then. However, a lot of people are still skeptical about the technology. In fact, a survey by AAA suggested that around 75 percent of the public are currently fearful about riding in a self-driving car.

Various groups seen in our society could benefit from being able to use autonomous vehicles though, including senior citizens. This is especially apparent when considering the Surface Transportation Policy Project titled ‘Aging Americans: Stranded Without Options.’ This study revealed that 20 percent of Americans over 65 do not drive at all. Bearing all of this in mind, stairlift manufacturer Acorn Stairlifts has investigated exactly how self-driving cars have the capability to assist elderly people.

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Waymo Launches Nation’s First Commercial Self-Driving Taxi Service In Arizona (12-5-18)

A pickup site for the driverless Waymo taxis in the Phoenix suburbs. (Michael Laris/The Washington Post)

 On the chilly October day the New York City subway opened in 1904, the marvel of engineering and grit was greeted with horns, steam sirens and stations overrun by thousands of revelers. “Fast Trains in Tubes,” blared one headline.

On Wednesday, 114 years later in sun-swept Arizona, the launch of the 21st-century equivalent came in a blog post and an email invitation.

Google offshoot Waymo announced it is launching the nation’s first commercial self-driving taxi service in this and other Phoenix suburbs. The 24/7 service, dubbed Waymo One, will let customers summon self-driving minivans by a smartphone app, a la Uber or Lyft.

Read Full Story Here (via The Washington Post)

Fully Driverless Waymo Taxis Are Due Out This Year, Alarming Critics (10-1-18)

Enlarge / John Krafcik on November 7, 2017—the day Waymo began testing fully driverless cars with no one behind the wheel.

Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project, is planning to launch a driverless taxi service in the Phoenix area in the next three months. It won’t be a pilot project or a publicity stunt, either. Waymo is planning to launch a public, commercial service—without anyone in the driver’s seat.

And to date, Waymo’s technology has gotten remarkably little oversight from government officials in either Phoenix or Washington, DC.

If a company wants to sell a new airplane or medical device, it must undergo an extensive process to prove to federal regulators that it’s safe. Currently, there’s no comparable requirement for self-driving cars. Federal and state laws allow Waymo to introduce fully self-driving cars onto public streets in Arizona without any formal approval process.

Read Full Story Here (via ars Technica)

A Day In The Life Of A Waymo Self-Driving Taxi (8-21-18)

Waymo is ready to start charging for its self-driving trips, but first, it needs to master the dreaded art of fleet management

In a nondescript depot in suburban Arizona, the future of transportation is getting a tune-up. This is where Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, houses its growing fleet of self-driving cars: hundreds of Chrysler Pacifica minivans fitted with highly advanced hardware and software that enables them to safely ride on public roads without a human driver behind the wheel.

For over a year, Waymo has been offering trips to the 400-plus members of its Early Rider program who use Waymo’s ride-hailing app to summon the minivans for free trips to school, the mall, the gym, or elsewhere within its suburban Phoenix service area. Soon, Waymo will make that service available to the general public and it will start charging money for it, too. At the outset, the company plans on offering fully autonomous rides with a Waymo employee in the car only as a chaperone. And when that happens, it will make history as the first fully driverless taxi service in the world.

Read Full Story Here (via The Verge)