Waymo, formerly known as Google's self-driving car, is launching a fully autonomous Uber-like ride-hailing service with no human driver behind the wheel, after testing the vehicles on public roads in Arizona. Waymo, which is owned by Google parent Alphabet, said members of the public will begin riding in its fleet of modified Fiat Chrysler Pacifica minivans outfitted with self-driving technology in the next few months. Passengers will initially be accompanied in the back seat by a Waymo employee, but will eventually travel alone in the robotic car. The service will first be available to those who are already part of the company's public trial already under way in Phoenix. Rides will be free to start with, but Waymo expects to begin charging for journeys at some point.
You're lying on your stomach, with your arms draped forwards, almost like you're going to get a shoulder massage. Except this is not a moment for relaxation. Through a VR headset, you see flashes of color, an unfamiliar view of the world, a group of red lines that looks something like a person. And now you have to make a decision, because you're rolling forward, head first, and your right hand is wrapped around the joystick that determines which way you're going. Do you continue forward, and risk hitting that blob that might be a human being?
See how self-driving cars prepare for the real world inside a private testing facility owned by Google's autonomous car company, Waymo. A Chrysler Pacifica hybrid outfitted with Waymo's suite of sensors and radar is displayed at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Google is partnering with AutoNation, the country's largest auto dealership chain, in its push to build a self-driving car. AutoNation said Thursday, Nov. 2, that its dealerships will provide maintenance and repairs for Waymo's self-driving fleet of Chrysler Pacifica vehicles. FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Google is partnering with AutoNation, the country's largest auto dealership chain, in its push to produce self-driving cars for wide use.
The automobile is being dismantled, reimagined, and rebuilt in Silicon Valley. Intel's proposed $15.3 billion acquisition of Mobileye, an Israeli company that supplies carmakers with a computer-vision technology and advanced driver assistance systems, offers a chance to measure the scale of this rebuild. In particular, it shows how valuable on-the-road data is likely to be in the evolution of automated driving. While the price tag might seem steep, especially with so many players in automated driving today, Mobileye has some key technological strengths and strategic advantages. It's also developing new technologies that could help solidify this position.
OK, sure, there are self-driving cars on California roads today. General Motors' Cruise has Chevrolet Bolts zipping around San Francisco; Google self-driving spinoff Waymo has got Chrysler Pacifica motoring about Mountain View; secretive startup Zoox has black Toyota Highlanders mixing it up along San Francisco's Embarcadero. But all these vehicles, however capable, have a decidedly un-futuristic feature: There's a human in the driver's seat, ready to grab control in case the robot goes rogue. It's not just common sense, it's the law. California's Department of Motor Vehicles requires that safety driver to be there.
Uber drivers could one day be spared from engaging in small talk with drunks if a National Transport Commission suggestion to allow people under the influence of alcohol to use fully automated vehicles is adopted by state road authorities. The NTC, an independent statutory body tasked with reforming Australia's driving laws to prepare for the arrival of driverless cars, has recommended an "exemption" from drink and drug-driving laws for people who ride in fully automated vehicles. Advocates of the new technology argue its largest benefit would be reducing Australia's road toll. South Australia passed legislation last year, while New South Wales passed legislation to allow its own trials in August.
The bill, called the SELF DRIVE Act, lays out a basic federal framework for autonomous vehicle regulation, signaling that federal lawmakers are finally ready to think seriously about self-driving cars and what they mean for the future of the country. It officially gives the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration power to regulate vehicle design, construction, and performance--the way it does with, well, normal cars. Finally, the legislation makes it a lot easier for self-driving cars to hit the road. Today, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS, for those who are hip with it) govern how vehicles are designed.
Before autonomous trucks and taxis hit the road, manufacturers will need to solve problems far more complex than collision avoidance and navigation (see "10 Breakthrough Technologies 2017: Self-Driving Trucks"). These vehicles will have to anticipate and defend against a full spectrum of malicious attackers wielding both traditional cyberattacks and a new generation of attacks based on so-called adversarial machine learning (see "AI Fight Club Could Help Save Us from a Future of Super-Smart Cyberattacks"). When hackers demonstrated that vehicles on the roads were vulnerable to several specific security threats, automakers responded by recalling and upgrading the firmware of millions of cars. The computer vision and collision avoidance systems under development for autonomous vehicles rely on complex machine-learning algorithms that are not well understood, even by the companies that rely on them (see "The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI").
Hearing plays an essential role in how you navigate the world, and, so far, most autonomous cars can't hear. It recently spent a day testing the system with emergency vehicles from the Chandler, Arizona, police and fire departments. Police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, and even unmarked cop cars chased, passed, and led the Waymo vans through the day and into the night. Sensors aboard the vans recorded vast quantities of data that will help create a database of all the sounds emergency vehicles make, so in the future, Waymo's driverless cars will know how to respond.
A bill that would speed up development of self-driving cars and establish a federal framework for their regulation, the Highly Automated Vehicle Testing and Deployment Act of 2017, is now working its way through Congress. But they're also willing to expose vehicles via online software updates because the logistical challenges posed by physical downloads (car drives to shop, shop downloads new software) would make the frequent improvements required to millions and millions of lines of code virtually impossible to effect. Geater explained that some of the measures being taken to improve security include separating functions – the sound system can communicate with the vehicle speed system (to modulate sound volume according to vehicle speed), but neither can communicate with the transmission, for example. "People prove time and time again to be absolutely terrible, dangerous drivers," Geater said, adding that the risks posed by an actual human behind the wheel of a car far outweigh those posed by a potential hacker.