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Waymo Gets Ready to Deploy Thousands of Self-Driving Minivans

It’s 2018, and Waymo is doing it reside. Two months after the Alphabet self-driving automotive spinoff introduced it could begin working a really driver-free service in Phoenix this yr (as in, automobiles romping about with nobody on the wheel), the corporate now unveils the way it will do it: with the assistance of hundreds extra Chrysler Pacifica hybrids. The automobiles, constructed by Fiat Chrysler in Canada, will ultimately make their manner to the cities the place Waymo is presently testing driverless tech. Waymo already makes use of 600 of the minivans to check its driverless software program.

The particulars are a bit sketchy. Ask “how many thousands,” and also you’re instructed, ¯_(ツ)_/¯. So we might be speaking 2,000 new self-driving minivans, or 50,000. Of course, these will not come all of sudden—that is one of these “rolling delivery” setups, with no public timeframe. “It’s really dependent on Waymo’s needs for the fleet,” says FCA spokesperson Dianna Gutierrez.

Today’s information does show two actual issues. One: Waymo is just not ready for the federal authorities to approve new car exemptions that might let it deploy automobiles with out steering wheels or pedals, like those General Motors plans to launch subsequent yr. Nine years after launching this entire trade as Google’s self-driving automotive venture, Waymo, now a standalone firm below the Alphabet umbrella, is itching to get going. “Because our technology is ready today and we’re ready to scale today, our approach is to use a vehicle that’s on the market,” says Waymo spokesperson Johnny Luu.

Thanks to that head begin and greater than four million miles of testing on public roads, Waymo seems to be profitable the race to develop driverless tech. And whereas the enterprise mannequin for getting cash off these robots continues to be opaque—will it promote its software program to carmakers, or possibly handle its personal nationwide fleet of self-driving taxis?—it is shifting full pace forward.

Takeaway quantity two: You might are available contact with these automobiles earlier than you assume, particularly if you happen to reside in a single of the 25 cities the place Waymo is presently testing the tech. The firm introduced simply final week it’ll carry its testing equipment to metro Atlanta, making Georgia the primary southeastern state to have self-driving check automobiles its midst. (In May 2017, the Peach State handed a invoice permitting robocars with correct insurance coverage and registration on public roads.)

Driverless automobiles have a good distance to go earlier than perfection, earlier than you’ll be able to hop in a cabbie-free taxi that can take you wherever you need to go. But Waymo’s new armada of check minivans imply you could possibly drive alongside one quickly.


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