Everyone wants to be the first to create a self-driving car, and there are a few of them out there. But they still need a human watching what’s going on. Waymo, however, is hoping to jump the gun on everyone by being the first to field a fleet of driverless taxis — and it seems the company’s done just that.
Driverless taxis? Really?
But there’s a little fine print to examine, first. Waymo has indeed launched a limited-service consisting of driverless taxis in Phoenix, Arizona (specifically covering the suburbs of Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa — an area about 80 square kilometres in size). It’s at odds with its previous Waymo One service, in that there are no human drivers in the vehicles. But they’re not… entirely… driverless.
Rather, the new service has so-called remote operators, who keep an eye on multiple vehicles at a time. The self-driving taxis can generally handle the trip themselves but if there’s anything unexpected, the taxis pull themselves over and request human assistance. Which isn’t a bad idea at this point — rather than having a computer system (which all still need work) just making it up as it goes along. That’s one heck of a way to get into the news.
Elegant solutions to major problems or not, the further rollout of Waymo driverless taxis will take some time. In order to expand operations, the company has to first map the area in great detail, then send in its vehicles with so-called safety drivers to make sure their maps and software play nice with each other. Only then can it switch over to driverless cars, remotely monitored by human eyes. But hey, it’s a start.
Source: Ars Technica