Google and a number of automakers are spearheading the movement to get automated vehicles on America's roads. Self-driving cars are street legal in three states, and Google's fleet has collectively logged over 300,000 miles of time on the road. However, there are several obstacles in the path of widespread adoption, with legal and moral opposition to the concept coming from all corners. Follow this StoryStream to track the technology's progress as it transitions from experimental testing to consumer reality that could save thousands of lives.
Two years ago, General Motors presented a vision for the future that involved “zero crashes, zero traffic, and zero emissions.” Today, that future seems further away than ever.Read Article >
The automaker’s driverless car subsidiary, Cruise, announced last night the resignation of Kyle Vogt as CEO. The decision came over a month after an incident in which a hit-and-run victim became pinned under a Cruise vehicle and then was dragged 20 feet to the side of the road. As a result, California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Cruise’s permit to operate driverless cars in the state.
Oct 26TFW your Uber driver is an empty seat.
Starting today, Phoenix residents can use the Uber app to hail a ride in a driverless Waymo vehicle. The two companies — former rivals turned frenemies (?) — first announced the partnership earlier this year. Tellingly, it’s only available in Arizona, and not California, where tensions around robotaxis are starting to get, well, tense.
For years, developers have been working on ways for driverless cars to communicate intent to other road users, either through audio recordings or visual cues. Today, Waymo says it wants to be one of the first companies to put some of these methods into practice.Read Article >
The Alphabet-owned company’s driverless Jaguar I-Pace vehicles will use their roof domes, which are wrapped in LED displays, to communicate messages to other road users. For now, the company is going with just two messages: for pedestrians in front of the vehicle, shifting grey and white rectangles meant to communicate that the vehicle is yielding to them, and for drivers behind the vehicle, a yellow pedestrian symbol to let them know there’s a pedestrian crossing.
Oct 12Robotaxis in the Bayou City.
Houston is the next city in the US to get a robotaxi service, courtesy of Cruise, which just announced the launch today. The driverless vehicles will be available seven days a week from 9PM-6AM in Downtown, Midtown, East Downtown, Montrose, Hyde Park, and River Oaks neighborhoods. Robotaxi companies have been targeting bigger, more populous markets, as the pressure to start bringing in more revenue continues to grow. Waymo just started testing the waters in LA, and now Cruise is going after the fourth biggest city in the US.
Oct 11What about driver’s ed for driverless cars?
This opinion piece in the New York Times argues we’re “driving blind” when it comes to autonomous vehicles, citing recent robotaxi crashes in San Francisco and the growing number of fatal Tesla Autopilot incidents. The writer argues that while the federal government regulates hardware, and the states oversee drivers, there’s no one testing to see whether the software operating these vehicles is up to snuff. And that amounts to “a loophole large enough for Elon Musk, General Motors and Waymo to drive thousands of cars through.”Opinion | Autonomous Vehicles Are Driving Blind
[The New York Times]
Waymo’s robotaxi service area in San Francisco is expanding to 47 square miles of the city — a significant expansion of the company’s driverless ridehail operations.Read Article >
Last August, Waymo and its driverless rivals won approval from California regulators to operate their commercial service 24/7. The vote was a significant win for the tech industry, which has been battling criticism that its robot cars occasionally obstruct emergency vehicles and cause traffic jams.
Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed Assembly Bill 316, which would have required human attendants in driverless vehicles over 10,000 pounds, reports Reuters. The bill saw broad support among state legislators and was backed by the Teamsters and other labor organizations. At the moment,Read Article >
The governor wrote in his veto message that the bill “is unnecessary for the regulation and oversight of heavy-duty autonomous vehicle technology,” adding that the existing regulatory framework is “sufficient.”
Cruise, the autonomous vehicle company backed by General Motors, revealed a wheelchair-accessible robotaxi that it says could start picking up disabled passengers as soon as next year.Read Article >
The reveal of the newly accessible robotaxi is a major step toward fulfilling the dream of people with vision, hearing, and mobility impairments, who have long held out hope that autonomous vehicles represent a new way of getting around.
Aug 19Driverless buses are tooling around San Francisco’s Treasure Island in a test for the next few months.
Called The Loop, the shuttle has no steering wheel, but an onboard attendant can take over with a handheld remote if needed, according to Insider. Its maker, Beep, previously tested it as a medical supply transport in Florida in 2020.
Aug 17We knew Tesla didn’t fix a flaw in Autopilot, and now we have their engineers on record admitting it.
When two people die in very similar crashes years apart, the reason seems obvious. Autopilot, Tesla’s driver assist system, can’t recognize trucks crossing the road. They knew it couldn’t, and they didn’t fix it. And now we have testimony from their engineers admitting this.
Despite the company’s knowledge “that there’s cross traffic or potential for cross traffic, the Autopilot at the time was not designed to detect that,” according to testimony given in 2021 by company engineer Chris Payne that was excerpted in a recent court filing. Engineer Nicklas Gustafsson provided a similar account in a 2021 deposition.
The family for one of the dead Tesla owners is seeking punitive damages in a lawsuit set to go to trial this October.
The day after California regulators handed driverless car companies a major victory, allowing them to expand their services without restriction in San Francisco, a herd of robotaxis decided to celebrate by breaking down in the middle of a busy street.Read Article >
According to several local news reports, 10 Cruise vehicles sat paralyzed in a busy intersection near the Outside Lands Music Festival, causing a traffic jam and drawing exasperation from witnesses. The company told KPIX that the music festival caused “wireless connectivity issues” with its vehicles. In other words, festivalgoers were overwhelming the cellular networks, making it difficult for Cruise’s vehicles to send and receive information.
Waymo’s fourth robotaxi city will be Austin, Texas. It will be a bit of a homecoming for the Alphabet-owned self-driving company.Read Article >
Waymo said that it will kick off the process for a commercial robotaxi service in the city later this year. But that doesn’t mean passengers can hail one of the company’s driverless vehicles quite yet; Waymo’s playbook is to start with manual testing, following by supervised testing, fully autonomous driving, and then, eventually, passenger services. The company has been testing its vehicles on the streets of Austin since March, laying the groundwork for the eventual launch of a commercial ridehailing service.
At a recent House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on self-driving cars, Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL) kicked off her five minutes of questions for the panelists with a quick appraisal of the toaster-shaped autonomous shuttle that has puttered around her district in Gainesville, Florida, for the past three years.Read Article >
“It moves not very fast,” Cammack said with a grimace. “So there’s a lot of frustrations with it, I’ll say that.”
On a recent Friday evening, a driverless car pulled up alongside an outdoor dining shed in the Mission district of San Francisco, put on its hazard lights, and waited. As traffic began to pile up behind the vehicle, a man smoking a cigarette outside a nearby bar rolled his eyes.Read Article >
“I don’t drive a car,” he grumbled, “so I don’t really care about these things.”
Jul 7San Francisco residents are disabling robotaxis with traffic cones.
Car critics in San Francisco are placing orange traffic cones on the hoods of Waymo and Cruise robotaxis in protest of an upcoming vote to allow the autonomous vehicles to operate at all hours. The cones cause the vehicles to stall in the middle of the road — which is a weird thing to do if janky robot cars blocking emergency vehicles is something you want to avoid.
Volkswagen announced it will test autonomous vehicles in the US starting with driverless versions of its ID Buzz electric microbus. The new fleet will be tested on public roads in Austin, Texas, starting later this month.Read Article >
The announcement comes months after VW, along with Ford, pulled funding for Argo AI, the self-driving startup that had planned on launching robotaxi services in the US and Europe. The loss of funding caused Argo to shut down and cast a pall over the AV industry, which had been struggling to build a business model around driverless cars for more than a decade.
Waymo’s robotaxis will be available to hail for rides and food delivery on Uber’s app in Phoenix later this year, the result of a new partnership that the two former rivals announced today.Read Article >
A “set number” of Waymo vehicles will be available to Uber riders and Uber Eats delivery customers in Phoenix, where the Alphabet company recently doubled its service area to 180 square miles. The partnership was described as “multi-year,” with the goal of bringing together “Waymo’s world-leading autonomous driving technology with the massive scale of Uber’s ridesharing and delivery networks.”
Waymo is dramatically expanding its robotaxi service areas in Phoenix and San Francisco as it seeks to gain new customers, generate more revenue, and make a convincing argument that self-driving cars are more than just an expensive fad.Read Article >
In Phoenix, the company’s autonomous Jaguar I-PACE vehicles will now cover a total of 180 square miles, or roughly twice the size of its current map and four times the size of the area that the company served when it first launched its ride-hailing operation in 2020.
Zoox, the autonomous vehicle company owned by Amazon, said that its toaster-shaped driverless vehicle without a steering wheel or pedals was approved to drive on public roads with passengers in California. The company celebrated the milestone as the “first time in history a purpose-built robotaxi — without any manual controls — drove autonomously with passengers.”Read Article >
Zoox is one of dozens of companies currently testing AVs on public roads in the Golden State. And while it trails behind competitors like Waymo and Cruise in the race to commercialize the technology, it is making advancements by introducing a new kind of vehicle to the road — one that lacks traditional controls and could hardly be described as a “car” in the modern sense of the word.
Jan 31Read Article >
This week, both Waymo and Cruise submitted their latest quarterly trip data to the California Public Utilities Commission, and taken together, they show steady progress in the number of miles and passengers served.
San Francisco transportation officials want Waymo and Cruise to slow the expansion of their robotaxi services in the city due to safety concerns, as reported earlier by NBC News. In two letters written to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the officials on San Francisco County’s Transportation Authority say the expansion of either service “is unreasonable,” citing recent incidents involving stopped driverless vehicles blocking traffic and obstructing emergency responders.Read Article >
The GM-backed Cruise and Alphabet-owned Waymo are currently the only companies permitted to offer driverless rides to passengers in San Francisco. In June, Cruise won a permit to charge for rides in its autonomous vehicles (AV) between 10PM and 6AM, while Waymo obtained a permit to offer fully driverless rides a few months later. Unlike Cruise, Waymo still can’t charge for driverless rides, as it’s still awaiting an additional permit from the CPUC.
Dec 16, 2022
Waymo is sending its fully driverless cars to handle some of the trickiest types of passenger pickups you can muster: airport trips. The company announced that customers flying in and out of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport will now be able to hail one of the company’s “rider only” vehicles, a sign that the Alphabet company is willing to take on more risk as it seeks to bolster the case for a fully autonomous taxi service.Read Article >
Waymo is also expanding the size of its service area in both Phoenix and San Francisco as it seeks to send the message that despite all the recent dour headlines about the future of autonomous vehicles, its robotaxi business is still going strong.
Dec 7, 2022
Uber now has robotaxis available for its customers to hail in Las Vegas.Read Article >
The vehicles are operated by Motional, a joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv, and will feature safety drivers behind the steering wheel, though the vehicles will be operated by Motional’s autonomous driving system. Riders are not being charged for the initial launch, with both companies saying that fares will come in the future. And Motional says it intends on launching a public fully driverless service without safety drivers in 2023.
Nov 21, 2022
Waymo, the Alphabet-owned autonomous taxi company that currently operates in a small handful of cities, showed off a brand-new prototype vehicle made by Geely’s luxury Zeekr brand last week at a splashy invite-only event in downtown Los Angeles.Read Article >
While Waymo has largely used production vehicles like the Chrysler Pacifica and Jaguar i-Pace to shuttle passengers around cities like Phoenix and San Francisco, this is the second ground-up design that Waymo has unveiled. The first was the Firefly, which was retired in 2017.
Mar 13, 2018
Recently, Waymo began inviting members of its Early Rider program in Phoenix to take trips in its fully driverless minivans. These are normal people who signed up back in 2017 to serve as guinea pigs for the Google spinoff’s experiments in self-driving transportation. And, as you can see in this new video released Tuesday, the experience is equal parts thrilling and boring.Read Article >
In the video, the passengers giggle nervously at the sight of an empty driver’s seat, wondering aloud whether passersby are also slightly freaked out, and making casual references to “the future.” Then, very quickly, as is common among most ride-hailing passengers, they start to zone out. They look at their phones, they yawn, and one even falls asleep. When they reach their destination, they thank not the driver but the car.