Skip to main content

Filed under:

Self-driving cars: Google and others map the road to automated vehicles

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.

  • Nov 21, 2022

    Abigail Bassett

    Waymo’s new robotaxi is an all-electric people mover with no steering wheel

    Waymo robotaxi
    Waymo teamed up with Geely to debut its new purpose built autonomous taxi.
    Photo by Abigail Bassett for The Verge

    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. 

    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

    Read Article >
  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Mar 13, 2018

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Waymo’s fully driverless minivans are already putting people to sleep

    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.

    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.

    Read Article >
  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Sep 18, 2017

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Intel is working with Waymo to build fully self-driving cars

    Intel announced today that it will be collaborating with Alphabet’s self-driving unit Waymo to provide the computing power necessary for Level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles that can drive in most any condition.

    Waymo’s self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans, which are operating on public roads in Arizona and California, already feature Intel-produced technology for everything from connectivity to sensor-data processing. By working more collaboratively in the future, the two companies say they hope to eventually produce vehicles capable of driving in any condition without human intervention.

    Read Article >
  • Lyft teams up with NuTonomy to put ‘thousands’ of self-driving cars on the road

    Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

    Lyft announced a new partnership today with Boston-based self-driving car startup NuTonomy to eventually put “thousands” of on-demand, autonomous vehicles on the road. In the meantime, the two companies said they intend to launch a limited pilot in Boston within the next few months, in which Lyft users will be able to hail one of NuTonomy’s driverless vehicles by using Lyft’s app.

    It’s not Lyft’s first dalliance with self-driving partnerships. Last month, the company announced its plan to work with Alphabet’s Waymo on autonomous technology. And previously, GM invested $500 million in Lyft with the goal of eventually deploying its driverless Chevy Bolts on the ride-hail network. John Zimmer and Logan Green, Lyft’s co-founders, are on record saying that they expect the majority of the company’s rides to take place in autonomous vehicles by 2021.

    Read Article >
  • Google’s self-driving cars just got way better at driving themselves

    Photo by Sean O’Kane / The Verge

    California’s Department of Motor Vehicles released its annual autonomous vehicle disengagement report today, in which all the companies that are actively testing self-driving cars on public roads in the Golden State disclose the number of times that human drivers were forced to take control of their driverless vehicles. The biggest news to come out of this report is from Waymo, Google’s new self-driving car company, which reported a huge drop in disengagements in 2016 despite an almost equally huge increase in the number of miles driven.

    In other words, Waymo’s self-driving cars are failing at a much lower rate, even as they are driving a whole lot more miles. The company says that since 2015, its rate of safety-related disengages has fallen from 0.8 per thousand miles to 0.2 per thousand miles in 2016. So while Waymo increased its driving by 50 percent in the state — racking up a total of 635,868 miles — the company’s total number of reportable disengages fell from 341 in 2015 to 124.

    Read Article >
  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Jan 31, 2017

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Uber teams up with Mercedes-Benz’s parent company on self-driving cars

    Uber announced today its plan to join forces with German auto giant Daimler on the deployment of self-driving cars. The cars, along with the autonomous technology, will be manufactured by Daimler before being introduced into Uber’s ride-hailing network, the companies say.

    “Auto manufacturers like Daimler are crucial to our strategy because Uber has no experience making cars—and in fact, making cars is really hard,” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said in a blog post published Tuesday. “This became very clear to me after I visited an auto manufacturing plant and saw how much effort goes into designing, testing and building cars.”

    Read Article >
  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Jan 19, 2017

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Watch GM’s self-driving car navigate the streets of San Francisco

    Like most of its competitors, General Motors is betting hard on autonomous cars being the future of transportation. But unlike Ford, Google, Uber, and others, GM has been pretty secretive about its self-driving cars, refusing to release images or footage of any public tests.

    Today, Kyle Vogt, the head of the self-driving startup Cruise Automation that was recently acquired by GM for a reported $1 billion, tweeted dash camera footage of what’s described as a recent test of its self-driving car on the streets of San Francisco. We don’t get to see the actual car, but a GM spokesperson said it was a Chevy Bolt. Spy photos recently surfaced of the all-electric vehicle kitted out with self-driving sensors. GM President Dan Ammann, who is leading the auto giant’s self-driving efforts, was in the car at the time, according to Vogt’s tweet.

    Read Article >
  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Oct 25, 2016

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Uber’s self-driving truck company just completed its first shipment: 50,000 cans of Budweiser

    Otto

    In the early morning hours of October 20th, an 18-wheeler tractor trailer pulled into Colorado Springs, Colorado, bearing 50,000 frosty cans of Budweiser beer. Normally, this would not be a noteworthy occurrence, but this truck was driving itself, marking the first time that commercial cargo was shipped by a self-driving vehicle.

    The journey began 120 miles away at an Anheuser-Busch facility in Loveland, Colorado. The truck — a Volvo big rig equipped with cameras and sensors — was one of five owned by Otto, a San Francisco-based self-driving truck company acquired by Uber in August. A human driver piloted the truck to a weigh station in Fort Collins. From there, it drove 100 miles without human intervention to Colorado Springs, with the driver monitoring the two-hour trip from the sleeper berth. But once it entered the city limits, the driver took control.

    Read Article >
  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Oct 11, 2016

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Self-driving cars hit the road for first public test in the UK

    Fabio De Paola/PA

    Self-driving cars — or more accurately self-driving pods — took to the road in a city outside of London Tuesday in what organizers are calling the first public test of driverless cars in the UK. To be sure, it was at extremely low speeds in a sparsely trafficked area, but was still celebrated as a milestone by Great Britain, which has lagged behind the US in testing self-driving cars.

    The autonomous Lutz Pathfinder Pod, developed by the Oxford Robotics Institute and a university spinout company Oxbotica, navigated its way around a small area in the southern English town of Milton Keynes at 5 mph, turning corners and stopping as pedestrians crossed its path, according to Reuters. The test was overseen by the government-sponsored Transport Systems Catapult, a non-profit that funds innovation projects in the UK.

    Read Article >
  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Oct 10, 2016

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Digital mapping firm Here wants to transform Iowa highway into a self-driving utopia

    Here, the mapping business, announced today that it was teaming up with Iowa’s Department of Transportation to transform a nearly 30-mile stretch of Interstate-380 into a special corridor for self-driving cars and trucks.

    Here says it will use its open location platform, which includes real-time and predictive traffic maps, to help Iowa transportation officials develop ways for self-driving vehicles to better communicate with the infrastructure and other vehicles. The firm did not disclose the total cost of the project.

    Read Article >
  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Oct 10, 2016

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Images of Google’s first self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans surface

    self driving car

    Last May, Google and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) signed a deal to make a fleet of self-driving Pacifica minivans — the first phase in a broader autonomous car deal between the two companies. On Sunday, the first prototypes were spotted in a San Francisco parking garage by the CEO of Enterprise Garage Consultancy, who sent some spy photos to Electrek. They show over a dozen plug-in hybrid Pacificas with cameras and LIDAR sensors mounted on their roofs.

    Google won’t say when it plans on deploying the minivans, or in what capacity. But it’s worth noting that the minivans were spotted around the same time that Google made two significant announcements: its self-driving Lexus SUVs have driven a combined 2 million miles on public roads; and the company is launching a new ride-sharing service centered on carpooling. You know what’s a good vehicle for carpooling? Minivans!

    Read Article >
  • Didi, the ride-hail company that beat Uber in China, is working on self-driving cars

    Didi Chuxing

    Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hail behemoth that is a key ally of Apple and most recently took over Uber’s business in China, is working on developing self-driving cars, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

    The company is reportedly scouring Silicon Valley for data scientists and engineers, and Didi co-founder and CEO Cheng Wei has had talks with Gansha Wu, the former director of Intel Labs in China and founder of a Beijing-based driverless car startup called UiSee Technology. (UiSee plans to unveil its self-driving technology at CES in 2017.)

    Read Article >
  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Sep 28, 2016

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Self-driving cars will have to pry the steering wheel from our cold, dead hands, poll says

    Gallery Photo: Inside Google's self-driving cars

    Americans like the idea of self-driving cars, but are less willing to cede control of the steering wheel to a computer program, according to a new poll released today. An overwhelming majority, 80 percent, said humans should always have the option to drive themselves, while 64 percent expressed a need to be in control of their own vehicle.

    Moreover, people are essentially torn between the promise of safety and the need for control: 49 percent said they prefer a safer roadway even if it means they would have less control over their vehicle, while 51 percent said wanted to stay in the driver seat, safer streets be damned.

    Read Article >
  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Sep 26, 2016

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Google’s ‘worst’ self-driving accident was still a human’s fault

    Google said that one of its self-driving cars was involved in an accident in Mountain View, California last week. The accident was first reported Friday by 9to5 Google, which characterized the incident as Google’s “worst accident yet.”

    In a statement, Google insisted its driverless car was not at fault. A crash report with the DMV has yet to be posted, so all the details have yet to be confirmed.

    Read Article >
  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Sep 22, 2016

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Singapore’s self-driving cars can now be hailed with a smartphone

    nutonomy

    The world’s first self-driving taxi has finally found its ride-hail network. On Thursday, NuTonomy, an MIT-spinoff testing self-driving cars in Singapore, announced a partnership with Grab, the Uber of Southeast Asia. The partnership will allow NuTonomy to expand its public trial, which started several weeks before Uber launched its own public test in Pittsburgh on August 25th.

    Much like Uber’s self-driving test, select Grab users will get the chance to hail one of NuTonomy’s driverless vehicles by tapping the special “robo-car” icon in the Grab app. Pick-ups and drop-offs, though, will only occur in a 1.5-square-mile section of Singapore called North 1, which has been designated by the city-state’s Land Transport Authority as the testbed for self-driving cars.

    Read Article >
  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Sep 20, 2016

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Self-driving car makers don’t sound super excited to share data with the federal government

    Uber

    Today, the federal government released major new guidelines for self-driving cars. But for anyone waiting for the reaction of big companies like Google and Uber, don’t hold your breath. The chief lobbyist for those companies just convened a press call with reporters in which he said... well, not that much.

    Within the 114-page document released by the Department of Transportation was a requirement for auto makers and tech companies working on autonomous technology to share large amounts of data with the government on aspects like safety and software. The reaction from the industry has thus far been fairly muted.

    Read Article >
  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Sep 20, 2016

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    New rules of the road for self-driving cars have just been released

    Gallery Photo: Inside Google's self-driving cars

    So far, manufacturers of self-driving cars have operated in uncharted waters, with regulations governing the rules of the road varying from state to state. Now the federal government is stepping in with a major new effort to bring order to the chaos.

    On Tuesday, the federal government released its first rulebook governing the manufacture and sale of self-driving cars — everything from nearly autonomous Teslas to Google cars without steering wheels or foot pedals. Under the new rules, companies that are building and testing self-driving cars will be required to share extensive amounts of data with federal regulators. But it’s unclear that companies will do so without a fight.

    Read Article >
  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Sep 18, 2016

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Lyft's president says 'majority' of rides will be in self-driving cars by 2021

    Lyft Driver Rally
    Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for Lyft

    Lyft president and co-founder John Zimmer released a 14-page document today in which he predicts that by 2021, "a majority" of rides on its network will be in autonomous vehicles. Also by 2025, Zimmer says personal car ownership in US cities will be a thing of the past.

    The end of car ownership will change cities in "huge ways," he said, echoing those experts and academics that predict streets and parking lots will be transformed into housing and open spaces with the mass adoption of autonomous vehicles. It will also change the daily experience of riding in a car, he said.

    Read Article >
  • Sam Byford

    Jul 8, 2016

    Sam Byford

    I rode this cute self-driving bus that's coming to Japan next month

    DeNA, the Japanese company you might remember as the key collaborator in Nintendo's smartphone efforts, wants to be a player in the transportation game. After announcing initiatives related to self-driving taxis, car-sharing, and parking space-sharing, the company has now detailed plans for an autonomous bus service called Robot Shuttle.

    Robot Shuttle is a joint effort with a French company called EasyMile, which is providing the technology and the EZ10 bus itself. DeNA plans to use the buses as a "last mile"-type service that shuttles you from parking places to your eventual destination; Robot Shuttle trials will begin next month at a park adjoining a large mall in Chiba, just outside Tokyo. Hiroshi Nakajima, head of DeNA's automotive division, says he wants to expand the service to the entire mall complex if all goes to plan.

    Read Article >
  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Apr 27, 2016

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Meet the self-driving car industry’s most important lobbyist

    On Tuesday, the self-driving car industry introduced itself to the world. Five companies —€” Ford, Google, Uber, Lyft, and Volvo —€” announced the formation of the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, a lobbying and advocacy group. The industry's public face is David Strickland, a lawyer by training who attended Harvard at the same time as Barack Obama, and was later the president's pick to lead the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In an interview, Strickland says he got involved in the group to promote improved mobility for people who lack it.

    Read Article >
  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Apr 26, 2016

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Google, Ford, and Uber just created a giant lobbying group for self-driving cars

    A who's-who of carmakers, technology companies, and ride-sharing startups are joining forces to pressure the federal government on the issue of self-driving cars. Ford, Google, Uber, Lyft, and Volvo announced Tuesday the formation of the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, a lobbying group with the express purpose of advocating autonomous driving. It's a power move by some of the most high-profile names behind the still nascent technology, made at a time when regulators and policymakers in Washington, DC are still wrapping their heads around the concept of self-driving cars.

    The coalition will be headed up by David Strickland, a former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). He will serve as the group's counsel and spokesperson. In essence, Strickland will be lobbying his former agency, which has been tasked by Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to come up with a set of rules for self-driving cars by early summer.

    Read Article >
  • Voices clash at first public hearing on self-driving cars

    "We may be on the cusp of a safety innovation revolution," said Mark Rosekind, who runs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), kicking off the federal government's first public hearing on self-driving cars. Over 200 people attended the hearing Friday at the US Department of Transportation's headquarters in Washington, DC. For almost seven hours, agency officials heard testimony from automakers, engineers, consumer watchdogs, and disability advocates on the hopes and fears surrounding autonomous vehicles. They're comments ran the gamut from "this is the best thing ever" to "ban self-driving cars before they kill us all."

    And now it's the federal government's job to distill all these feelings into a set of policy proposals that address the serious technical, safety, and ethical issues surrounding self-driving cars, without killing innovation. Last January, DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx said his agency would take six months to issue guidance and model state policy on autonomous vehicles in order to avoid a "patchwork" system that could create conflicts. California is already fighting with Google over whether self-driving cars should be required to have a human being behind the wheel at all times. In February, NHTSA said the computer in Google's self-driving car could be legally considered "the driver."

    Read Article >
  • Volvo is sending 100 self-driving cars to China for testing

    Swedish automaker Volvo will send up to 100 self-driving cars to China for testing on public roads in a variety of conditions, the company's CEO announced at a seminar in Beijing today. The company will hold discussions with Chinese officials to see which cities can accommodate its autonomous cars in terms of regulations and infrastructure. Volvo will first conduct a public test of its self-driving technology in Sweden in 2017 before launching its test fleet in China. (Volvo was acquired by Chinese automaker Geely in 2010.)

    Read Article >
  • Amazon and Microsoft are very close to investing in mapping tech for self-driving cars

    Last week's news that Amazon and Microsoft were both considering getting involved in the world of self-driving cars was no April Fools' prank. This week, Daimler, the German automobile manufacturer that owns Mercedes-Benz, confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that the two tech giants were close to taking an ownership stake in Here, the digital mapping business for autonomous vehicles.

    Read Article >
  • Amazon and Microsoft will reportedly invest in Here, the self-driving car mapping unit

    Amazon and Microsoft are two of the biggest technology companies in the world who have yet to make overt steps toward the world of autonomous vehicles, but that may soon change. Sources are telling Reuters that both companies are interested in providing cloud computing capabilities to Here, the mapping business formerly owned by Nokia and recently acquired by a consortium of German automakers. The car companies, BMW, Audi, and Mercedes' parent company Daimler, are all interested in building self-driving cars.

    In addition, Amazon is said to be interested in becoming a shareholder in Here, which would ensure the e-commerce giant becomes the primary provider of cloud computing to the company. That would be helpful as Here continues to collect mounds of data from the sensors mounted on the roofs of thousands of self-driving BMW, Audi, and Mercedes vehicles.

    Read Article >