Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving car company (formerly under Google), has been using modified vans for years to privately test its autonomous tech. In late 2016, Waymo announced that its first production car would be a modified Chrysler Pacifica. Now the company is looking to buy a few more minivans - 62,000, to be exact.
We've been hearing about Google's self-driving car ambitions for years, but lately the company seems to have slowed a bit, while would-be competitors like Tesla and NVIDIA are nipping at its heels. To give its efforts a boost (or possibly just make the expense and organization more manageable), the formerly Google-branded self-driving car project is being spun off into a separate company under the Alphabet parent company. The new venture is called Waymo, as in "a new way forward in mobility."
The off-topic tag doesn't get a lot of use here at AP, but why have it if we aren't going to let it stretch its legs once in a while? I thought I'd start off the morning with a video I found particularly hilarious. Everyone knows about Google's self-driving, steering wheel-less car. It's adorable and, ostensibly, the future. But this GTA V parody of a news station's "first ride" clip from the car's public debut had me in absolute stitches, it's the funniest thing I've seen in weeks.
Just a bit of light, pedestrian-striking humor to get your day started. It's all in good fun, though; technological breakthroughs are worthy of the occasional well-intentioned mocking.
Google's self-driving cars have popped up in four cities over the past several months, including Phoenix, Arizona and Kirkland, Washington. Drivers there may have encountered Lexus RX450h SUVs riding around with funky Google cameras sitting on top. Now Google has partnered with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for its next wave of self-driving vehicles.
Now they're ready to hit the streets of San Francisco at a brisk 25mph.
These new prototypes use the same software that powers Google's existing fleet of self-driving vehicles. Those cars have logged nearly a million autonomous hours on the road. Google's math comes out to nearly 10,000 miles spent driving a week, which it says equals 75 years of typical American adult driving experience.
Google's self-driving car program has been one of the company's most visible and high-profile "moonshots" over the last few years. When Google showed off the primary development stages, the self-driving vehicles were basically production cars (like the Toyota Prius and Lexus SUVs) stuffed with huge amounts of robotics, communications, and processing equipment. Now the first self-driving "Google Car" prototype, built from the ground up to demonstrate the autonomous system, is complete and ready to roll out.
Google has been working on this unique prototype since before May of this year. The company plans to test its curvy new vehicle on an official Google test track, followed by tests on public roads after New Year's.
I've long dreamed of the day when I can get in the car and go places without having to actually pay attention to my driving (or other drivers around me). To be able to use my laptop, phone, or tablet; watch a movie, read a book, or any of the other things I'd rather be doing instead of driving would be fantastic – and make long road trips much more bearable.
Thanks to Google's self-driving car project, that reality is getting closer than ever before. The company recently took the time to show off its first prototype car, and it's...interesting looking.