Google's Waymo Unveils Fleet of Self-Driving Chrysler Pacifica Minivans

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Google spin-off Waymo unveiled its fleet of 100 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans in a preview event ahead of the North American International Auto Show on Sunday (via USA Today).

John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, told attendees at the Detroit event that the fleet packs an array of new sensors that were all developed in-house, including an enhanced vision system, improved radar and laser-based lidar.


"We're serious about creating fully self-driving cars that can help millions of people, and to do that we have to oversee both the self-driving software and the self-driving hardware," said Krafcik.
The autonomous vehicles are the result of a partnership between Google and Fiat Chrysler that was agreed last spring, and represent the first time Google has chosen to build self-driving technology itself, rather than turn to third-party manufacturers. As a result, Waymo said the company had been able to cut costs by 90 percent.

But apart from cutting costs, Krafcik told attendees that building the hardware in-house had allowed the company to develop better technology, such as an improved rooftop radar system, or Lidar, that allows the cars to read more information off the environment.
"The detail we capture is so high that not only can we detect pedestrians all around us, but we can tell which direction they're facing," said Krafcik. "This is incredibly important, as it helps us more accurately predict where someone will walk next."
The hybrid vehicles will join the company's Lexus SUVs and Firefly vehicles on public roads in California and Arizona later this month to speed up testing. Waymo has yet to reveal when the self-driving system employed in the minivans will be ready to install in production vehicles, but the companies are thought to be planning an autonomous ride-sharing service to compete with the likes of Uber and Lyft.

Apple's self-driving technology plans remain tightly under wraps, but Cupertino is thought to be developing its own autonomous driving system for use in third-party vehicles. The company is said to have given its car team until 2017 to prove the feasibility of a self-driving vehicle system.

Apple revealed its interest in the emerging self-driving market in November 2016 when it sent a letter to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, suggesting that new entrants to the auto industry should get the same rights as established companies.

Article Link: Google's Waymo Unveils Fleet of Self-Driving Chrysler Pacifica Minivans
 

okboy

macrumors regular
Oct 9, 2010
243
452
So it's not a product reveal, but a revealing that they personally have a bunch of test devices?

This is a theme at Google, they seem to think that wanting to do something is the same as doing it.
 
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jlc1978

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Aug 14, 2009
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Best comment in TFA was that most of the reported accidents were caused by drivers rear ending autonomous vehicles which did not act as a human driver would. Sounds like a perfect car for South Florida. No one would know the difference.

On a serious note, that is a big issue. Drivers are conditioned to expect a certain response in a given circumstance and reacting differently will lead to problems. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
 

ikramerica

macrumors 6502
Apr 10, 2009
431
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Best comment in TFA was that most of the reported accidents were caused by drivers rear ending autonomous vehicles which did not act as a human driver would. Sounds like a perfect car for South Florida. No one would know the difference.

On a serious note, that is a big issue. Drivers are conditioned to expect a certain response in a given circumstance and reacting differently will lead to problems. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
No doubt.

Will they move over a bit to let right turn on red drivers squeeze by? Nope.

Will they handle stop and go traffic in a human way? Unlikely.

Will they pull over to make way on a narrow 2-way street with parked cars? Who knows, but you can't look at the drivers eyes nor see them motion with their hands, so it will be confusing. It might even be dangerous because the empty car will seem parked.

How about all the four way stops nobody knows how to use? Will the car know who'd turn it is? Without a human to glare at, will they stop when they start going too early?
 

8281

macrumors 6502
Dec 15, 2010
463
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Best comment in TFA was that most of the reported accidents were caused by drivers rear ending autonomous vehicles which did not act as a human driver would. Sounds like a perfect car for South Florida. No one would know the difference.

On a serious note, that is a big issue. Drivers are conditioned to expect a certain response in a given circumstance and reacting differently will lead to problems. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
Human drivers should be conditioned not to hit things while driving. I'm not sure how you would know these incidents weren't caused by inattentive drivers.
 

mcfrazieriv

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Jan 30, 2012
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WHYYYYYYYYY :confused:

IT'S SO UGLY. Only thing worse would have been to bring back the PT Cruiser.
 

agsystems

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Aug 1, 2013
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Apple's self-driving technology plans remain tightly under wraps, but Cupertino is thought to be developing its own autonomous driving system for use in third-party vehicles
Really....which self-respecting automaker is waiting for Apple to provide with them autonomous driving software - this is from folks that cannot even get their computers on-time.
 

doelcm82

macrumors 68040
Feb 11, 2012
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Florida, USA
No doubt.

Will they move over a bit to let right turn on red drivers squeeze by? Nope.

Will they handle stop and go traffic in a human way? Unlikely.

Will they pull over to make way on a narrow 2-way street with parked cars? Who knows, but you can't look at the drivers eyes nor see them motion with their hands, so it will be confusing. It might even be dangerous because the empty car will seem parked.

How about all the four way stops nobody knows how to use? Will the car know who'd turn it is? Without a human to glare at, will they stop when they start going too early?
What I'm hearing you say is that humans won't be able to adapt to the changes in driving patterns as AI drivers take to the streets. We are doomed by our lack of flexibility.
 

Bart Kela

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Oct 12, 2016
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So it's not a product reveal, but a revealing that they personally have a bunch of test devices?

This is a theme at Google, they seem to think that wanting to do something is the same as doing it.
The main takeaway here is that they have an actual automobile partner.

They already have a bunch of test vehicles on the road. Adding another 100 vehicles to their test fleet isn't particularly newsworthy.

They have been running modified Lexus SUVs for years, but Lexus has never claimed any direct involvement. Waymo also runs their little Firefly cars which are not identified with a specific manufacturer.

The fact that Fiat Chrysler acknowledges the partnership is in fact newsworthy.
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Why does it have the usual reversing sensors?
Maybe because it's easier to simply add their own sensor suite rather than try to mod the vehicle to remove overlapping/duplicate technology.

There's no statute that requires Apple to integrate with the vehicle's existing technology.
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WHYYYYYYYYY :confused:

IT'S SO UGLY. Only thing worse would have been to bring back the PT Cruiser.
Their choice of test platform vehicle is probably influenced by practicality. Presumably, there's a fair amount of equipment that must be installed, both externally and internally for whatever particular phase of their experiments.

Unsurprisingly, the Chrysler Pacifica minivan was used by another anonymous company (some speculated Apple) for some sort of sensor-based vehicle testing. In that instance, Fiat Chrysler did not claim any sort of involvement with the mystery testers.
 
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