It’s 2018, and Waymo is doing it stay. Two months after the Alphabet self-driving automobile spinoff introduced it will begin working a really driver-free service in Phoenix this yr (as in, vehicles 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 finally make their technique to the cities the place Waymo is at present testing driverless tech. Waymo already makes use of 600 of the minivans to check its driverless software program.
The main points are a bit sketchy. Ask “what number of hundreds,” and also you’re instructed, ¯(ツ)/¯. So we could possibly be speaking 2,000 new self-driving minivans, or 50,000. After all, these will not come suddenly—that is a kind of “rolling supply” setups, with no public timeframe. “It’s actually depending on Waymo’s wants for the fleet,” says FCA spokesperson Dianna Gutierrez.
At the moment’s information does show two actual issues. One: Waymo just isn’t ready for the federal authorities to approve new automobile exemptions that might let it deploy automobiles with out steering wheels or pedals, like those Common Motors plans to launch subsequent yr. 9 years after launching this complete business as Google’s self-driving automobile mission, Waymo, now a standalone firm underneath the Alphabet umbrella, is itching to get going. “As a result of our know-how is prepared right this moment and we’re able to scale right this moment, our method is to make use of a automobile that’s in the marketplace,” says Waymo spokesperson Johnny Luu.
Because of that head begin and greater than four million miles of testing on public roads, Waymo seems to be successful the race to develop driverless tech. And whereas the enterprise mannequin for earning profits 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 velocity forward.
Takeaway quantity two: You might are available in contact with these vehicles ahead of you suppose, particularly in the event you stay in one of many 25 cities the place Waymo is at present testing the tech. The corporate introduced simply final week it should carry its testing equipment to metro Atlanta, making Georgia the primary southeastern state to have self-driving check vehicles its midst. (In Might 2017, the Peach State handed a invoice permitting robocars with correct insurance coverage and registration on public roads.)
Driverless vehicles have an extended technique to go earlier than perfection, earlier than you possibly can hop in a cabbie-free taxi that can take you wherever you wish to go. However Waymo’s new armada of check minivans imply you possibly can drive alongside one quickly.