Waymo Begins Testing Autonomous Ride-Hailing Service With No Safety Drivers Behind the Wheel

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Last month, self-driving company Waymo began operating autonomous minivans on public roads in Arizona, in tests that were conducted without a safety driver "or any human at all" behind the steering wheel. Today, the Google-owned company announced it's now beginning the first steps toward launching a ride-hailing service backed by a fleet of completely self-driving vehicles (via The Verge).

To start, Waymo will begin testing the autonomous driving service with its employees in Chandler, Arizona, then expand to members of Waymo's Early Rider program before finally seeing a public launch in the town sometime in the next few months. Users will hail the vans through the Waymo app and when they arrive there won't be any safety drivers or other humans in the driver's seat, but a Waymo employee will still sit in the backseat.


The test vans will be able to travel anywhere within a geofenced 100-square-mile radius of Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix. While there are understandable caveats to Waymo's ride hailing service tests, it is notable as the company's first time achieving Level 4 autonomy, where a vehicle is expected to perform "safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip" without someone behind the wheel.
The next step for Waymo is a big one: a commercial ride-hail service, in which riders can hail one of the company's autonomous minivans via an app like Uber or Lyft. "People will get to use our fleet of on-demand vehicles, to do anything from commute to work, get home from a night out, or run errands," Krafcik said.
Waymo has been testing its self-driving vans in Arizona because the state's laws regulating autonomous tests "are practically non-existent." Arizona lacks regulation that requires companies to publicly disclose accidents involving its autonomous vehicles, and various other potential self-driving related incidents, like the number of times a human driver was forced to take the wheel.

According to Chandler's mayor Jay Tibshraeny, "Waymo's work here in Chandler is groundbreaking as they work toward their goal of fully autonomous vehicles. At the same time, this research and development taking place in our community will ultimately make our roads safer and provide new freedom for those unable to drive."

Waymo has multiple competitors in the self-driving market, previously engaging in a legal dispute with Uber earlier in 2017. In February, Waymo accused Uber of stealing Waymo's own self-driving LIDAR system, and then a few months later, Uber fired the engineer accused of stealing the self-driving secrets from Waymo.

For Apple, the Cupertino company has reportedly scaled back its vehicle-related ambitions, with the most recent reports detailing the development of an autonomous service that would shuttle employees around its campus.

Article Link: Waymo Begins Testing Autonomous Ride-Hailing Service With No Safety Drivers Behind the Wheel
 
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paulvee

macrumors regular
Jun 23, 2003
150
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Great. Go to a place with no regulations to test a technology that will eliminate many thousands of entry level driving jobs for people. These big tech companies exist only to enrich a tiny number of people and destroy the rest of us, all under the rubric of “progress.”
 

bxs

macrumors 6502a
Oct 20, 2007
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Seattle, WA
I wonder what the insurance aspect/liabilities are with this service ? Does Waymo have sufficient Ins coverage if accident happens and passenger is hurt or even killed etc ? Will passenger have to sign a Waiver maybe ? If the car speeds for whatever reason and a police car chases the car will the car stop safely or continue on without noticing or bothering about being hailed to stop by the police ?
 

ArtOfWarfare

macrumors G3
Nov 26, 2007
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Good lord people are making a big deal out of nothing.

THERE IS STILL AN EMPLOYEE IN THE CAR. THAT MEANS IT'S NOT LEVEL 4 AND/OR WAYMO HAS NO FAITH THAT IT WORKS. THAT MEANS IT CAN'T SCALE.

An employee will be sitting in the backseat watching for when the car encounters a situation it can't handle. When, not if, that occurs, the employee will have controls to take over the car.

Although the fact the employee is physically there really shows how little faith Waymo has in their system. Why not do this same publicity stunt where it's a bit less obvious and have an employee monitor the car remotely?
 

Gasu E.

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Mar 20, 2004
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Not far from Boston, MA.
I wonder what the insurance aspect/liabilities are with this service ? Does Waymo have sufficient Ins coverage if accident happens and passenger is hurt or even killed etc ?
I'm sure Google complies with all state insurance laws; why wouldn't they?. Plus, it's Google, who would have amply resources to pay a judgement in the event of a lawsuit that exceeded their policy coverage.
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If the car speeds for whatever reason and a police car chases the car will the car stop safely or continue on without noticing or bothering about being hailed to stop by the police ?
Haha, great question! I haven't heard that one before, but it is a realistic use case.
 

69Mustang

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Jan 7, 2014
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Good lord people are making a big deal out of nothing.

THERE IS STILL AN EMPLOYEE IN THE CAR. THAT MEANS IT'S NOT LEVEL 4 AND/OR WAYMO HAS NO FAITH THAT IT WORKS. THAT MEANS IT CAN'T SCALE.

An employee will be sitting in the backseat watching for when the car encounters a situation it can't handle. When, not if, that occurs, the employee will have controls to take over the car.

Although the fact the employee is physically there really shows how little faith Waymo has in their system. Why not do this same publicity stunt where it's a bit less obvious and have an employee monitor the car remotely?
That's a pretty cavalier attitude to take with 2 ton semi-autonomous vehicles on the road with regular pedestrians. It would be exceptionally stupid during a testing phase for Waymo to have no possible physical control over the vehicle. They're testing, not deploying for service.
 

ArtOfWarfare

macrumors G3
Nov 26, 2007
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It would be exceptionally stupid during a testing phase for Waymo to have no possible physical control over the vehicle.
Define "physical control". There is a person physically there with a physical button they can press to make the car physically stop.

The button is connected via wires, but, at least on a Tesla, all controls are connected via wire rather than something else (I assume this is true of other modern cars, but the only one I really follow closely enough to know is Tesla.)
 

MartinAppleGuy

macrumors 68020
Sep 27, 2013
2,243
888
Great. Go to a place with no regulations to test a technology that will eliminate many thousands of entry level driving jobs for people. These big tech companies exist only to enrich a tiny number of people and destroy the rest of us, all under the rubric of “progress.”
What about the number of lives it can save? Or the number of accidents? Numbers of drink drivers? Personally, I don't see that selling point only enriching a 'tiny' number of people lol
 

qCzar

macrumors regular
Feb 27, 2011
196
2
SFBA, CA
Great. Go to a place with no regulations to test a technology that will eliminate many thousands of entry level driving jobs for people. These big tech companies exist only to enrich a tiny number of people and destroy the rest of us, all under the rubric of “progress.”
Sure, this is replacing ridehsare drivers but that is a job that began picking up steam in the last 5 years or so. There are plenty of other driving jobs that pay better, offer a company vehicle, and are more or less protected against automation. For example, Package Delivery. Let's say the delivery truck/van is autonomous but how's the package going to get to the front door? Is the recipient going to get a notification to come out to the vehicle? No, that's a huge step backwards. What about food delivery such as catering? Who's going to load the food into the vehicle? Who's going to unload it?

I worked in delivery for a few years until just two years ago, driving a box truck,. Fairly entry level, no real experience needed. I have zero confidence autonomous driving will replace those drivers. The tolerances in alleyways as I had to reverse into loading docks is mind boggling narrow. And I mean that, you've got a narrow alleyway then you need to back into a perpendicular loading dock. I have zero confidence AI could do that in real world conditions. Autonomous driving will be really good for going from Point A to Point B, which really most delivery jobs aren't about.

Good lord people are making a big deal out of nothing.

THERE IS STILL AN EMPLOYEE IN THE CAR. THAT MEANS IT'S NOT LEVEL 4 AND/OR WAYMO HAS NO FAITH THAT IT WORKS. THAT MEANS IT CAN'T SCALE.

Although the fact the employee is physically there really shows how little faith Waymo has in their system. Why not do this same publicity stunt where it's a bit less obvious and have an employee monitor the car remotely?
Or... Or that they have enough faith in their system to remove the employee from the drivers seat. It's literally no different than if two regular passengers got in the vehicle. From the video, it seems the employee had no "emergency" stop or controls. I assume if the car couldn't continue it would pull over, alert the employee who would then move to the drivers seat.

I'm quite thankful they still have employees in the car because if it does get into an accident, what then? I as a passenger nor as another driver would have no idea what to do. The employee does. I assume it'll remain this way until standards are implemented to get insurance information from a vehicle with no human onboard.
 

2010mini

macrumors 601
Jun 19, 2013
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Great. Go to a place with no regulations to test a technology that will eliminate many thousands of entry level driving jobs for people. These big tech companies exist only to enrich a tiny number of people and destroy the rest of us, all under the rubric of “progress.”
I’m sure horse driven buggy drivers felt the same way about “horseless carriages “
 

69Mustang

macrumors 604
Jan 7, 2014
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In between a rock and a hard place
Define "physical control". There is a person physically there with a physical button they can press to make the car physically stop.

The button is connected via wires, but, at least on a Tesla, all controls are connected via wire rather than something else (I assume this is true of other modern cars, but the only one I really follow closely enough to know is Tesla.)
Physical control as in if something goes wrong with the autonomous system the vehicle can be driven by the Waymo employee to 1. the passenger's destination and 2. back to autobot HQ.

Somehow, I knew this was going to circle back to Tesla. I was going to preemptively say that, but didn't want to be that guy. But I knew it was going to circle back to Tesla.:)
 

EdT

macrumors 68000
Mar 11, 2007
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Omaha, NE
What about the number of lives it can save? Or the number of accidents? Numbers of drink drivers? Personally, I don't see that selling point only enriching a 'tiny' number of people lol
Right now we don’t know if this combination of software and hardware saves any lives. The POTENTIAL to save lives is enhanced by removing human drivers but that doesn’t mean that safety increases are automatic.

And until the liabilities are well defined would you want to be the only physical person in a vehicle that kills someone else since you don’t have a large staff of lawyers working for you but Google does?
 

avanpelt

macrumors 68030
Jun 2, 2010
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Waymo has been testing its self-driving vans in Arizona because the state's laws regulating autonomous tests "are practically non-existent."
Yeah, until something goes horribly wrong and people are injured or killed. Then, Arizona would likely go from having practically no laws related to autonomous vehicle testing to either banning the testing outright or severely limiting it.
 

Andronicus

macrumors 6502a
Apr 1, 2008
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Great. Go to a place with no regulations to test a technology that will eliminate many thousands of entry level driving jobs for people. These big tech companies exist only to enrich a tiny number of people and destroy the rest of us, all under the rubric of “progress.”
What a backwards thinking comment. I miss the macrumors that had a downvote button.
 

avanpelt

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Jun 2, 2010
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What prevents someone from stealing an autonomous car in which they're a passenger? I'm sure Waymo has thought of this scenario. I'd be interested to know what safeguards are in place, though. I know there are cameras all over the car both inside and out, so I assume there's also a remote "kill" switch for the vehicle?
 

4jasontv

macrumors 68000
Jul 31, 2011
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I worked in delivery for a few years until just two years ago, driving a box truck,. Fairly entry level, no real experience needed. I have zero confidence autonomous driving will replace those drivers. The tolerances in alleyways as I had to reverse into loading docks is mind boggling narrow. And I mean that, you've got a narrow alleyway then you need to back into a perpendicular loading dock. I have zero confidence AI could do that in real world conditions. Autonomous driving will be really good for going from Point A to Point B, which really most delivery jobs aren't about.
I have zero confidence that I could do that. You might not have been paid much, but that isn't an entry level job. If it is I'd never qualify for one that isn't.
 

cmwade77

macrumors 65816
Nov 18, 2008
1,051
1,103
What about the number of lives it can save? Or the number of accidents? Numbers of drink drivers? Personally, I don't see that selling point only enriching a 'tiny' number of people lol
Ok, how about the other side, what about the number of times the government will see where you are going and tell the car to go elsewhere?

What about the number of people it kills because its system malfunctioned due to a simple sticker on a sign?
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I worked in delivery for a few years until just two years ago, driving a box truck,. Fairly entry level, no real experience needed. I have zero confidence autonomous driving will replace those drivers. The tolerances in alleyways as I had to reverse into loading docks is mind boggling narrow. And I mean that, you've got a narrow alleyway then you need to back into a perpendicular loading dock. I have zero confidence AI could do that in real world conditions. Autonomous driving will be really good for going from Point A to Point B, which really most delivery jobs aren't about.
Actually, this is exactly where self driving can indeed excel, look at how good self parking options in vehicles are. I know my parallel park assist has managed to get me into spots that I never could have on my own.
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What prevents someone from stealing an autonomous car in which they're a passenger? I'm sure Waymo has thought of this scenario. I'd be interested to know what safeguards are in place, though. I know there are cameras all over the car both inside and out, so I assume there's also a remote "kill" switch for the vehicle?
Once they remove the driver/employee they are also going to remove the steering wheel, gas and brake pedals. And no, I am not making that up, there will literally be no possible way for someone to control the vehicle.