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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…)

Ford, Baidu Ink Autonomous Test Deal in China as Waymo Starts in California Despite Protests

Disparate reactions to autonomous vehicle testing.

by Michael Strong on Nov.01, 2018

Ford's Sherif Marakby and Baidu's Zhenyu Li shake hands, confirming the new autonomous testing deal between the two companies.

Ford Motor Co. just inked a deal with Baidu Inc. to conduct two years of autonomous vehicle testing on the roads of China as Waymo is getting approval to engage in its own self-driving vehicle tests in California despite the protests of watchdog groups.

The Baidu-Ford L4 Autonomous Vehicle Test Project is set to begin by the end of this year, the automaker noted. The project will develop and test autonomous vehicles that are designed to meet the Level 4 (L4) driving automation standard as defined by SAE International.

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Level 4 vehicles are capable of operating autonomously within a specific geographic area and under certain weather conditions. Ford engineers have already started the process working at its Nanjing Research and Engineering Center, which was set up to convert the vehicles into Autonomous Vehicle Platforms in order to prepare them to be fit with Baidu’s Apollo Virtual Driver System.  (more…)

Waymo Set to Purchase 62k Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Minivans for Autonomous Ride-Share Service

Announcement follows news of a major investment in GM Cruise self-driving car program.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on May.31, 2018

An early version of a Waymo-modified Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan roams the streets of Phoenix.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Waymo will radically accelerate their alliance, FCA announcing it will supply as many as 62,000 more Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to the autonomous vehicle spin-off of Google.

FCA previously committed to providing several thousand of the plug-in people-movers. Waymo has also committed to purchasing up to 20,000 Jaguar I-Pace battery-electric SUVs, and CEO John Krafcik has told TheDetroitBureau.com that it expects to add still other models for use in the planned self-driving ride-share service that is currently in pilot testing in Phoenix. Commercial service will launch in that city later this year, Krafcik announced in March, and will eventually expand to “other” cities across the U.S.

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The FCA-Waymo announcement comes just hours after General Motors revealed that Japanese venture capital fund SoftBank is investing $2.25 billion in GM Cruise Holdings, the carmaker’s autonomous vehicle unit. That news quickly sent shares of GM surging by 10% in early Thursday morning trading.

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Waymo Putting 20k Jaguar I-Pace EVs into New Driverless Ride-Share Service

Moving from “R&D to deployment,” despite cloud form fatal Uber crash.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Mar.27, 2018

Waymo and Jaguar are partnering to produce 20,000 I-Pace SUVs for next few years.

Despite a cloud created by this month’s fatal crash of an Uber autonomous vehicle prototype, Waymo today announced it will be full speed ahead as it launches what is expected to become a nationwide driverless ride-sharing service.

During a New York news conference, Waymo CEO John Krafcik revealed the Google spinoff will begin adding as many as 20,000 Jaguar I-Pace SUVs to its fleet, the battery-electric vehicles joining thousands of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans Waymo had already committed to purchase.

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Waymo has spent nearly a decade developing what many experts call the most sophisticated self-driving technology on the road, but Krafcik said his company has now “shifted our focus from research and development to operations and deployment.” (more…)

Waymo’s Krafcik Joins Industry Chorus Questioning Uber’s Techonology

Concerns about faulty tech growing inside and out of industry.

by Michael Strong on Mar.26, 2018

Waymo CEO John Krafcik told a crowd at NADA that its autonomous vehicle would have not hit Elaine Herzberg.

A self-driving Uber’s fatal collision with a pedestrian in Arizona is inviting scrutiny and criticism of the company’s technological capabilities from safety advocates, industry experts and the company’s direct competition: Waymo.

“We have a lot of confidence that our technology would be robust and would be able to handle situations like that one,” said Waymo Chief Executive Officer John Krafcik last weekend.

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On March 18, Elaine Herzberg, 49, was struck by Uber’s Volvo XC90 as she walked her bicycle across a four-lane boulevard. The vehicle never attempted to stop or move to avoid her. The vehicle’s safety driver, Rafaela Vasquez, 44, was looking down at the time and didn’t see Herzberg until it was too late to act. (more…)

Waymo Lets Folks Peer Behind the Autonomous Curtain

CEO Krafcik promotes self-driving cars with videos at SXSW.

by Michael Strong on Mar.15, 2018

These girls commemorated their ride in Waymo's autonomous minivan with a selfie.

Surveys are showing that a majority of Americans are uncomfortable with the idea of riding in an autonomous, or self-driving vehicle.

In fact, the most recent AAA study shows that 63% of Americans are reticent to get into an autonomous car. That number is down from 78% from the previous year.

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Although the numbers of nays are shrinking, its apparent that it’s going to require some heavy marketing on the part of automakers that are heavily investing in self-driving technology development, and Waymo CEO John Krafcik is helping to lead the charge. (more…)

Waymo Gets the Go to Launch 1st Driverless Ride-Sharing Program

Service set to begin within the year in Phoenix area, then expand to other markets.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Feb.19, 2018

Waymo has been testing its ride-sharing program in Phoenix but now has a permit to go fully driverless.

Waymo, the autonomous ride-sharing service spun off by Google, has gotten permission to launch a commercial ride-sharing service that will completely eliminate human drivers.

The company has confirmed receiving a permit from the Arizona Department of Transportation and is now expecting to launch service using a small fleet of modified Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans in the Phoenix area. It has been operating a pilot program in the Phoenix area for the past year using autonomous vehicles that still had a backup “operator” behind the wheel ready to take control in an emergency.

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“As we continue to test-drive our fleet of vehicles in greater Phoenix, we’re taking all the steps necessary to launch our commercial service this year,” a Waymo spokesman told TheDetroitBureau.com. (more…)

Uber Settles With Waymo for $245 Million

Company says it "regrets" the issue; promises to use only Uber technology.

by Michael Strong on Feb.09, 2018

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi continues to rehabilitate the company's image.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi continues to knock down the roadblocks to the ride-sharing company’s progress as the company settled a long-running dispute with rival Waymo over trade secrets.

The company paid $245 million of its own stock to Waymo, the spinoff of Google’s autonomous vehicle business, and an agreement to not use any Waymo-based technology in its development of self-driving vehicles, according to a Reuters report.

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The settlement came as the two sides were about to begin a fifth day in court over the dispute, which has been costing Uber time and money as it looks to rehabilitate its reputation on multiple fronts. (more…)

Waymo Buying “Thousands” of Chrysler Minivans for New Driverless Ride-Hailing Service

Project will target “multiple U.S. cities.”

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Jan.30, 2018

Waymo has been testing its ride-sharing program in Phoenix but plans to launch in other markets as it goes fully driverless.

Waymo plans to buy “thousands” of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to be used as Google’s autonomous vehicle spin-off sets up a driverless ride-hailing service in “multiple U.S. cities,” Waymo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced Tuesday.

The announcement marks a significant step forward for both companies. While considered a leader in the field, it had not been clear how Waymo was planning to commercialize its development of self-driving vehicle technology. For its part, FCA has been reluctant to invest in autonomous vehicle research but could now make a big leap by expanding its nascent alliance with Waymo.

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“In order to move quickly and efficiently in autonomy, it is essential to partner with like-minded technology leaders,” Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement. “Our partnership with Waymo continues to grow and strengthen; this represents the latest sign of our commitment to this technology.”

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Ford Moving EV Production From Michigan to Mexico

Move will open up plant to build new line of autonomous vehicles.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Dec.07, 2017

“You’re starting to see the foundation of Ford’s bet on AVs (or autonomous vehicles),” said Jim Farley.

Ford plans to shift production of electric vehicles from a suburban Detroit plant to a factory in Mexico, a top company official said. That move will make room at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant for Ford to launch a new line of driverless vehicles that will be used by ride-sharing and delivery fleets.

The move could create some political headaches for the second-largest of the Detroit Big Three automakers. During his campaign for the White House, then-candidate Donald Trump repeatedly bashed Ford’s plans to move small car production from Michigan to a second assembly plant it was building in Mexico. It ultimately scrubbed that facility and will shift production of the Focus model to China, instead.

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“You’re starting to see the foundation of Ford’s bet on AVs (or autonomous vehicles),” said Jim Farley, the president of global markets for Ford.

(more…)