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Waymo Kicks Off Autonomous Taxi and Ride Sharing Service

Autonomous service starts in Phoenix.

by Michael Strong on Dec.05, 2018

This scene may become more common as Waymo One kicks off service in Arizona.

Self-driving ride-sharing service is here. Well, it’s in Arizona, technically, but the day that Uber, Lyft and others have waiting for has arrived with the debut of Waymo One, Waymo’s autonomous taxi and ride-sharing service.

The service operates in a 100-square-mile zone covering four Phoenix suburbs: Chandler, Tempe, Mesa and Gilbert. The company has been testing its vehicles in the area since 2016, including offering free rides earlier this year to generate some goodwill for autonomous vehicles.

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“Over time, we hope to make Waymo One available to even more members of the public,” John Krafcik, Waymo’s CEO wrote in a blog post. “Self-driving technology is new to many, so we’re proceeding carefully.” (more…)

Waymo Gives Lo-Down on Autonomous Vehicles

Self-driving firm looks to take fear out of autonomy.

by Michael Strong on Oct.31, 2017

Waymo launched a pilot ride-sharing program in Phoenix using autonomous Chrysler minivans.

Waymo decided to provide a glimpse behind the curtain, allowing a group of media to take test rides in the company’s autonomous vehicles, explaining the testing process of the vehicles and sharing some insights about the company’s future.

The company, which is owned by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has been testing self-driving Chrysler Pacificas and Lexus SUVs in several cities around the U.S., including a trial run at ride-hailing in Phoenix.

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The media event featured several structured events at the company’s facility, a former military base, near Atwater, California, designed to replicate real-life situations encountered by test vehicles on test runs, such as cars broken down on the side of the road or roadways littered with debris.  (more…)

Waymo Set to Challenge Michigan Winter

Operating on snowy, icy roads the big challenge for autonomous tech.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Oct.26, 2017

Winter weather creates challenges for humans, and it can overwhelm autonomous vehicles.

There are already hundreds of autonomous prototypes cruising the nation’s roadways, and that number could soon climb into the thousands, thanks to a bill rapidly moving through Congress. But, for now, the vast majority of those vehicles are operating in warm weather climes like Phoenix and Silicon Valley.

The real challenge will be finding ways to make autonomous and fully driverless cars and trucks function in cold weather environments, experts stress, where things like lane markers may be obscured by road and ice.

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So, Waymo, the Google spinoff generally considered one of the leaders in self-driving technology, says it will begin testing in Michigan over the winter using some of its newest models, specially modified versions of the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid.

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Waymo Teams Up With Avis, Apple With Hertz in Autonomous Vehicle Push

Volvo expands its autonomous alliance with Autoliv with addition of graphics tech firm Nvidia.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Jun.27, 2017

Avis will handle the basic storage and maintenance for Waymo's Phoenix ride-sharing program.

Waymo, the autonomous vehicle spin-off from Google, has signed a deal with Avis to have the daily rental giant manage some of the self-driving vehicles it is operating in the Phoenix area as part of a ride-share test program.

Apple, meanwhile, is reportedly teaming up with Avis rival Hertz program, in this case to lease a handful of Lexus SUVs that it will modify as part of its own autonomous vehicle project – something that Apple CEO Tim Cook recently described as “the mother of all AI projects.”

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In the race to get autonomous, along with more advanced driverless, vehicles on the road within the next decade, established automakers and tech firms alike are lining up to find partners that can help accelerate their development programs.

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Waymo Casts Wide Net for Potential Users

Krafcik outlines company's plans.

by Joseph Szczesny on Jan.10, 2017

Chrysler and Waymo have limited their partnership to 100 of the modified minivans.

Waymo plans to target multiple segments with self-driving technology once it is ready for the road, Waymo Chief Executive Officer John Krafcik said during a talk at the annual Automotive News World Congress.

“The first point to keep in mind is we’re not making a car,” Krafcik said. “We’re working on making a better driver, he said.

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Better and safer “drivers” are the key to reducing the staggering number of road fatalities, which are estimated at 1.5 million annually, according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. (more…)

Waymo Launches Test of All-New Autonomous System

Google self-driving subsidiary starts producing its own hardware.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Jan.08, 2017

Waymo CEO John Krafcik with the specially modified Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid using the tech firm's latest autonomous technology.

Waymo, Google’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary, will start testing a fleet of specially modified Chrysler Pacifica minivans in Arizona and California later this month, moving a big step closer to reaching the point it can start moving its self-driving technology from prototype to production, CEO John Krafcik said during an appearance at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit Sunday.

That was one of several big announcements made by Krafcik during his appearance at the annual NAIAS. Krafcik also noted that Waymo is now producing the various LIDAR – 3D laser – cameras, radar sensors and other hardware used for its autonomous vehicle technology. That has helped it drop costs by as much as 90% and speed up the development process.

“This future isn’t very far away,” said Krafcik, a former Hyundai Motor America chief executive, adding that Waymo’s goal is “building cars that can help millions of people every day.”

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Waymo to Unveil Autonomous Chrysler Pacifica at NAIAS

Division leader Krafcik tweets news about appearance.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Dec.21, 2016

A Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, modified for Waymo, shown driving autonomously.

Waymo, the newly renamed Google autonomous vehicle division, will pull the wraps off its latest self-driving vehicle prototype, a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan, during the opening day of the 2017 North American International Auto Show.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Monday confirmed it had delivered 100 of its Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivans to Waymo, which will now have them modified to run autonomously. When they go into operation early next year they will more than double the size of the Google spinoff’s test fleet.

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“As we get fully self-driving cars ready for the road, we’ll need more types of vehicles to refine and test our advanced driving software,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a tweet.

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Google Setting Up Suburban Detroit Autonomous Vehicle R&D Hub

New site moves tech giant closer to possible customers.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on May.26, 2016

Google is opening a development center in Novi, Michigan. This building will start work with 100 Chrysler Pacific minivans.

As it steadily moves closer to production, Google is planning to open a new autonomous vehicle development center in the Detroit suburb of Novi.

The move will offer several advantages. Among other things, it will allow the tech firm to work more closely with the partners that would put Google’s self-driving technology into production. The announcement comes barely a month after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Google announced plans to use the technology on 100 new Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

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“For the past few years, members of our team have been working from the Greater Detroit area. Now it’s time to lay down roots: we’re establishing a self-driving technology development center in Novi,” said John Krafcik, the CEO of Google’s Self-Driving Car Project in a post on the Google+ service. (more…)

Fiat-Chrysler Reportedly Talking Autonomous Car Deal with Google

But prior rumors of Google-Ford deal failed to materialize.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Apr.29, 2016

Google is already testing its bubble-shaped prototype in California, Texas and Nevada.

Two partners in search of mates? Both Google and Fiat Chrysler have been open in their need to form alliances, and the two companies just might be ready to team up.

According to several online reports, they’re in advanced talks that could lead to Fiat Chrysler putting Google’s self-driving vehicle technology into production. The Silicon Valley firm is already testing its autonomous car software with a fleet of prototypes, but Google officials have repeatedly said they want to find a partner within the auto industry, rather than setting up their own manufacturing operation.

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The talks have reportedly been underway for several months, according to the Wall Street Journal, while a separate online report on autoextremist claims negotiations are in late stages and could see Google’s autonomous technology used on a variety of different Fiat-Chrysler products.

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Google Gets Major Endorsement from NHTSA for Autonomous Test Program

Feds say AI system is equivalent of human driver under federal law.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Feb.10, 2016

No humans required?

Google’s autonomous vehicle program has achieved a significant milestone as it moves closer to being production-ready.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has told the high-tech firm that the artificial intelligence system used in its prototype vehicles can be considered the same as a human driver according to federal regulations.

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Google had sought that ruling in a letter sent to NHTSA last November in which it claimed the vehicles have “no need for a human driver.” The high-tech project is in the midst of rolling out about 100 specially designed prototypes designed to test the latest version of Google self-driving technology under real-world conditions. The company wants to remove even the traditional steering wheel and pedals from some of those prototypes.

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