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Late to the Driverless Revolution

WSJ.com: WSJD - Technology

But they couldn't find any takers. In meetings with a prime parts supplier to the car makers and then with the senior leadership of a major auto company, the pair gave presentations on their vehicle's capabilities, the number of miles it had driven and the broad strokes of how their self-driving software saw the road. The reaction, they say, was utter disinterest--and dismay that they were experimenting on public roads rather than on a test track. "Self-driving technology didn't make sense to them," Mr. Urmson says. "And it seemed so far out of the playbook that it wasn't even addressable."


Who's Winning the Self-Driving Car Race?

#artificialintelligence

In the race to start the world's first driving business without human drivers, everyone is chasing Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo. The Google sibling has cleared the way to beat its nearest rivals, General Motors Co. and a couple of other players, by at least a year to introduce driverless cars to the public. A deal reached in January to buy thousands of additional Chrysler Pacifica minivans, which get kitted out with sensors that can see hundreds of yards in any direction, puts Waymo's lead into stark relief. No other company is offering for-hire rides yet, let alone preparing to carry passengers in more than one city this year. GM plans to start a ride-hailing service with its Chevrolet Bolt--the one with no steering wheel or pedals, the ultimate goal in autonomous technology--late next year, assuming the U.S. government has protocols in place by then. SoftBank Vision Fund, the gigantic Japanese tech investor, backed that plan on May 31 by dropping $2.25 billion into GM Cruise Holdings, the automaker's autonomous drive unit. Most of the others trying solve the last remaining self-driving puzzles are more cautious, targeting 2020 or later. The road to autonomy is long and exceedingly complicated. It can also be dangerous: Two high-profile efforts, from Uber Technologies Inc. and Tesla Inc., were involved in crashes that caused the death of a pedestrian (in the first known case of a person killed by a self-driving vehicle) and a driver using an assistance program touted as a precursor to autonomy. One of Waymo's autonomous vans was involved in a collision just last week.


Blind man sets out alone in Google's driverless car

Washington Post - Technology News

A blind man has successfully traveled around Austin -- unaccompanied -- in a car without a steering wheel or floor pedals, Google announced Tuesday. After years of testing by Google engineers and employees, the company's new level of confidence in its fully autonomous technology was described as a milestone. "We've had almost driverless technology for a decade," said Google engineer Nathaniel Fairfield. "It's the hard parts of driving that really take the time and the effort to do right." Steve Mahan, who is legally blind, was the first non-Google employee to ride alone in the company's gumdrop-shaped autonomous car.


Our Driverless Future Begins As Waymo Transitions To Robot-Only Chauffeurs

Forbes - Tech

Waymo is ready for a dramatic next step after eight years of preparation, most of it as the Google Self-Driving Car project. The Alphabet Inc. unit has begun testing autonomous vehicles on public roads without human safety drivers at the wheel, and early next year will make its robotic chauffeurs available to Phoenix-area commuters. Speaking at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, Portugal, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said on Tuesday that company technicians are already hailing its Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans in and around Phoenix via a mobile app and leaving it to the artificial intelligence operating the vehicles to figure out how to get to requested destinations. Within a few months, Waymo vans loaded with laser LiDAR, radar, cameras, computers, AI and no human safety drivers will pick up Arizonans registered in its "Early Riders" program. People will get to use our fleet of on-demand vehicles to do anything from commute to work, get home from a night out, or run errands," Krafcik said.