General Motors’ Cruise autonomous vehicle unit says it will pull the human backup drivers from its vehicles in San Francisco by the end of the year.
Cruise CEO Dan Ammann said in a statement that the company got a permit Thursday from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles to let the cars travel on their own.
The move follows last week’s announcement from Waymo that it would open its autonomous ride-hailing service to the public in the Phoenix area in vehicles without human drivers.
Waymo, a unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc., is hoping to eventually expand the service into California, where it already has a permit to run without human backups.
Cruise has reached the point where it’s confident that it can safely operate without humans in the cars, spokesman Ray Wert said. There’s no date for starting a ride service, which would require further government permission, he said.
It’s 2025 and driverless cars still aren’t zooming around everywhere. Where are the chilled out passengers on their phones, or napping, as an invisible “driver” navigates a crowded intersection?
They’re still mostly stuck in the backseat as a human driver shuttles them around. They’re likely in a highly automated and autonomous-capable vehicle, but a human is still there monitoring the machine. That doesn’t mean robo-vehicles aren’t on the road. Instead they’re working behind the scenes. They’re picking up our groceries, filling trucks with our endless online shopping purchases, and hauling crates of produce across the country.
The pandemic made us more comfortable with the idea of autonomous vehicles, but most industry experts still predict a slow transition to their widespread adoption in the U.S. When you’re avoiding exposure to a deadly disease, perhaps a driverless robotaxi, like the Waymo One service in suburban Phoenix, looks more attractive. But autonomous tech and testing regulations won’t accelerate just because of sudden mainstream acceptance and new social distancing norms.
Motional, the new brand from self-driving startup Aptiv and Hyundai, asked just over 1,000 U.S. adults in July about autonomous vehicle (AV) perception. More than 60 percent said AVs “are the way of the future.” A quarter of those surveyed said they are interested in experiencing the tech regularly. A year ago, the American Automobile Association (AAA) surveyed a similarly sized group of Americans and found 71 percent were afraid to ride in a self-driving car. (Note: How the two groups’ demographics compare is unknown.)
The next five years will likely continue to shift and refocus how we think about self-driving technology. While self-driving ride-shares won’t be the norm, more people will have experienced autonomy on the road. Motional CEO Karl Iagnemma thinks that by 2025, “if you haven’t taken a driverless journey you will know someone who has.”
Detroit — The coronavirus pandemic is proving to be yet another obstacle for the self-driving and ride-sharing movement, delaying the widely touted arrival of next-generation automotive technology.
Ford Motor Co. is postponing for a year the commercial deployment of its autonomous vehicles. Waymo LLC, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc., had to temporarily suspend its on-road testing and its ride-hailing offerings in Arizona. Uber Advanced Technologies Group recently announced layoffs of 3,500, citing the pandemic. And General Motors Co. is shutting down Maven, the car-sharing service that debuted in 2016 as the wave of the future.
With demand for car-sharing and ride-sharing diminishing sharply in the age of social-distancing and other forms of vigilant hygiene, companies are shifting their focus to using driverless vehicles to deliver goods before they ferry people — a reversal of a robo-taxi future envisioned just a few years ago, courtesy of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Expensive electrification programs that have yet to create revenue for automakers, however, continue despite automakers losing billions with auto plants closed for eight weeks and many dealerships unable to sell vehicles with stay-at-home orders in place during the pandemic. Still, the prevailing industry consensus holds that electric vehicles must be an option for consumers, and electrified powertrains are the foundation of self-driving vehicles and future mobility technologies.
ATLANTA – UPS ordered 10,000 electric delivery trucks from electric vehicle maker Arrival, in what it calls a move to accelerate electrification of the fleet.
It is the largest single order for electric vehicles from the shipping giant based in Sandy Springs.
The two companies are working together to develop electric vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems, including the potential for automated movement in UPS warehouses, technology that it will test starting this year.
UPS also announced that it is partnering with Waymo to test autonomous vehicle package pickups in the Phoenix area. UPS said Waymo’s Chrysler Pacific minivans will transport packages from UPS stores to a UPS sorting facility, with a driver on board to monitor operations. The technology allows the company to test subsequent pickups at UPS stores.
This week, nearly every major company developing autonomous vehicles in the U.S. halted testing in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19, which has sickened more than 250,000 people and killed over 10,000 around the world. Still some experts argue pandemics like COVID-19 should hasten the adoption of driverless vehicles for passenger pickup, transportation of goods, and more. Autonomous vehicles still require disinfection — which companies like Alphabet’s Waymo and KiwiBot are conducting manually with sanitation teams — but in some cases, self-driving cars and delivery robots might minimize the risk of spreading disease.
Waymo, the Google-affiliated self-driving car company, has finally started to operate its self-driving taxi service without any humans sitting behind the wheel.
That means passengers using the company’s Uber-like Waymo One service might find themselves shuttled around Arizona in the back seat of an otherwise-empty minivan, as one reporter for The Verge did. Removing the drivers is a major milestone in the race for fully-autonomous transport — the vehicles are still supervised remotely, but Waymo is now confident enough in its cars to almost entirely take humans out of the loop.
Waymo, the self-driving division of Alphabet, is about to put more passengers its fully driverless Chrysler Pacifica minivans. The company emailed its customers in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona, to let them know that “completely driverless Waymo cars are on the way.” It’s a sign that Waymo is growing confident enough in its technology to increase the frequency at which it allows passengers to ride in autonomous vehicles without a safety driver behind the wheel.
Waymo, Cruise, and others call on the NHTSA to take action on human controls
The federal government should rewrite the safety rules for automobile manufacturing so self-driving carmakers can deploy vehicles without traditional controls like steering wheels and pedals, according to public comments submitted by top car and tech companies.
And they should be quick about it.
“We urge [the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration] to move ahead promptly to remove the regulatory barriers the agency has identified,” David Quinalty, head of federal policy and government affairs at Waymo, wrote in a letter posted online on Thursday.
Heavy rain and blizzards aren’t the only forms of severe weather Waymo’s self-driving vehicles encounter on the regular. In a blog post published this morning, the Alphabet subsidiary laid out the ways its cars in over 25 cities tackle fog, dust, smoke, and other dangerous conditions that trip up even human drivers.
“Challenging [environmental] conditions, which affect human driver and vehicle performance, are one of the leading contributors to crashes on our roads … Poor perception creates significant risk for other road users including pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicle occupants,” wrote Waymo chief safety officer Debbie Hersman. “Waymo is working hard to master a variety of weather scenarios as part of our mission to improve road safety.”
The autonomous Lincoln MKZ started turning left at a Beijing intersection when a speeding truck aggressively cut in front of it. Sensors in the car detected the approach and instantly froze it in place.
But that put the Lincoln directly in the truck’s path, so Baidu Inc. engineer Sun Lei grabbed the steering wheel, spun it to the right and floored the accelerator to get out of harm’s way. The truck zoomed by as Sun’s colleague in the passenger seat calmly took notes on a tablet computer—just another learning exercise for the self-driving fleet being tested around the nation.
“We hope to see more interventions during the road tests so that we can improve our technology,” said Calvin Shang, general manager of strategy and operations for Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group. “It won’t help if you only run the cars on simple routes even for 10,000 or even 100 million miles.”
Though disaster was averted, the incident shows how China’s push into autonomous vehicles is barely out of first gear, with only a handful of cities allowing limited trials by search-engine giant Baidu, startup Pony.ai, trucker TuSimple Inc. and others since last year. Domestic and foreign testers are putting cars, buses, trucks and delivery vans through self-driving trials to teach them how to navigate the notoriously congested streets of the world’s biggest auto market.
Waymo CEO John Krafcik speaks on stage during the annual Google I/O developers conference in Mountain View, California, May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Waymo said on Tuesday it had chosen a factory in Detroit to mass produce self-driving cars, looking to the historical heart of the auto industry to build the vehicles of the future.
The company’s chief executive, John Krafcik, said in a blog post that Waymo would partner with American Axle & Manufacturing to lease and repurpose an existing Detroit facility that will be operational by mid-2019.
Waymo said in January it had chosen Michigan for its first production facility, adding it would receive incentives from the public-private partnership agency, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and create up to 400 jobs over time exclusively related to self driving.
In the not-too-distant future, Americans will be sharing the road with self-driving cars. Companies are pouring billions of dollars into developing self-driving vehicles. Waymo, formerly the Google self-driving-car project, says that its self-driving cars have already driven millions of miles on the open road.
In the not-too-distant past, beer has already been delivered by a robot truck in Colorado, so this shouldn’t seem so far fetched.