Waymo Opens Up Self-Driving Car Program to the Public in Phoenix Following Initial Success

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For the last month, Waymo has been testing out a small fleet of self-driving vehicles with a handful of participating residents in Phoenix, Arizona, and this week the company has noted the success of that test by opening up applications to join its autonomous car program to all Phoenix citizens. Dubbed the "early rider program" and stocked by 600 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans, Waymo said it will be accepting "hundreds of people with diverse backgrounds and transportation needs" into the program.

The Waymo trial is extensive, offering those participating full-time, on-demand access to one of the self-driving minivans, which can drive the participants anywhere within the targeted area, equivalent to "about twice the size of San Francisco." Waymo said that its intention in the test is to really delve into the reasons why people would prefer using an autonomous vehicle over a traditional car.

In a new video posted today to highlight Waymo's self-driving van, one of the first families in the program mention small but meaningful advantages like taking stress from traffic out of the equation, and not having to ask a parent for a ride every day.

Our early riders will play an important role in shaping the way we bring self-driving technology into the world -- through personal cars, public transportation, ride-hailing, logistics and more. Self-driving cars have the potential to reshape each and every one of these areas, transforming our lives and our cities by making them safer, more convenient and more accessible.
Now, the early rider program is open up to the Phoenix public at large. During the application process, Waymo asks potential participants to answer questions including why a self-driving car is most needed in the household and how it would improve the lives of those who use Waymo's van. Although the test is expanding this week, the company still says that it is accepting only a "limited number of early riders at this time."

Waymo originally began as a self-driving initiative within Google in 2009, and then spun off into a subsidiary of Alphabet late last year. Besides Waymo, a growing number of companies have shown interest in self-driving vehicle technology, but none have yet to launch a program as practical as Waymo's current public test in Phoenix. Uber has tested a fleet of self-driving cars in places like San Francisco, but the car-hailing company subsequently faced restrictions from the California DMV and pulled the cars from the road.


Even Waymo itself sued Uber earlier this year, with Waymo claiming that Uber stole its self-driving intellectual property. The lawsuit was specifically tied to Waymo's LiDAR system, which works by bouncing millions of laser beams off of surrounding objects to create a 3D picture of the world for detecting and avoiding objects. Waymo alleged that a former Google employee had stolen the LiDAR data after he had moved over to Otto, a self-driving trucking company that was then acquired by Uber.

In the midst of the self-driving car boom, Apple is now rumored to be working on an autonomous car software of its own that could be placed within existing vehicles. Early rumors of an "Apple Car" have since been dashed "for now" as the company focuses on building the self-driving system. The team behind that initiative is said to have until the end of 2017 to "prove the feasibility" of its autonomous technology, at which time Apple will officially decide a final direction for the platform.

Article Link: Waymo Opens Up Self-Driving Car Program to the Public in Phoenix Following Initial Success
 

sleepydinosaur

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Oct 31, 2009
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Then get arrested five minutes later. Those vehicles have more tracking devices and live feed monitoring than anything on the planet. I'll even bet there're cameras inside the vehicle that already captured photos of current passengers.
True but this is Phoenix. Phoenix where people cross medians to then drive on the wrong side of the freeway and kill people. This happens 1-2x a month.

I've lived here (unfortunately) for 35 years, trust me.

Never underestimate stupidity in a red state close to the border. (I've had 2 cars stolen, one used to run over someone. Both found in Mexico burnt to a cinder).
 

miknos

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Mar 14, 2008
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Wonderful technology. The only downside I can possibly imagine is having microphones and cameras inside. Don't ever think about making sweet love while going from A to B. Nor speaking something that's private inside the car.

BTW, is that his wife?
 

Tinmania

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True but this is Phoenix. Phoenix where people cross medians to then drive on the wrong side of the freeway and kill people. This happens 1-2x a month.

I've lived here (unfortunately) for 35 years, trust me.

Never underestimate stupidity in a red state close to the border. (I've had 2 cars stolen, one used to run over someone. Both found in Mexico burnt to a cinder).
Well, aren't you just a ray of sunshine.

Here's a tip: If you hate it so much, move.


Mike
 
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sleepydinosaur

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Well, aren't you just a ray of sunshine.

Here's a tip: If you hate it so much, move.


Mike
As soon as my daughter graduates.... I can't wait. But please enjoy all a Republican state has to offer: terrible schools, Jeff Flake and city cowboys.
 

rjohnstone

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True but this is Phoenix. Phoenix where people cross medians to then drive on the wrong side of the freeway and kill people. This happens 1-2x a month.

I've lived here (unfortunately) for 35 years, trust me.

Never underestimate stupidity in a red state close to the border. (I've had 2 cars stolen, one used to run over someone. Both found in Mexico burnt to a cinder).
I've lived here just as long and I question your residency.
You can't cross any median on any freeway in Phoenix. They have physical barriers separating both sides.
The wrong way drivers are turning onto the off ramps, ignoring the HUGE "Wrong Way" "Do Not Enter" Signs.
Mostly drunks.
 
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sleepydinosaur

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I've lived here just as long and I question your residency.
You can't cross any median on any freeway in Phoenix. They have physical barriers separating both sides.
The wrong way drivers are turning onto the off ramps, ignoring the HUGE "Wrong Way" "Do Not Enter" Signs.
Mostly drunks.
Moved to Phoenix July 3rd 1981. As for the wrong way crashes, there's 2 a month. The last one was just days ago I-17 at I believe Greenway. Killed the wrong way driver and the 2 girls in the other car. Look it up.

If you don't know these are happening I question your residency. Though ignorance is bliss.
 

Tinmania

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Moved to Phoenix July 3rd 1981. As for the wrong way crashes, there's 2 a month. The last one was just days ago I-17 at I believe Greenway. Killed the wrong way driver and the 2 girls in the other car. Look it up.

If you don't know these are happening I question your residency. Though ignorance is bliss.
This happens in all major cities, not just Phoenix. But the numbers of these kinds of crashes is dwarfed by accidents in general. That plus the "scare factor" means they are almost always newsworthy.

So where are you going to go that is safer? A rural area? It's not any safer, road-wise, and some studies say more dangerous: "Car crashes kill 27.61 deaths per 100,000 people out in the country, compared to 10.58 deaths in cities."

http://bigcitydriver.com/2015/04/urban-driving-vs-rural-driving-which-is-safer/

To circle back to the topic... Since urban areas will see self-driving cars sooner than rural areas, and since they are projected to reduce crashes, I'd say urban areas will only get safer. :)


Mike
 
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Marconelly

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It's phoenix so these will be stolen in no time.
I believe there has to be a person in driver's seat in these, legally. Essentially Waymo's taxi driver, except for the most time they probably won't be doing much driving. But they still have to be there to make unplanned stops, or if something goes wrong of course.

It's kinda funny that they clearly intentionally obscure that in this video - there's always some kind of shadow or a reflection in that area of the car when shown outside, and the camera doesn't reveal the driver's seat when showing the interior either.
 
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rjohnstone

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Moved to Phoenix July 3rd 1981. As for the wrong way crashes, there's 2 a month. The last one was just days ago I-17 at I believe Greenway. Killed the wrong way driver and the 2 girls in the other car. Look it up.

If you don't know these are happening I question your residency. Though ignorance is bliss.
I never said I didn't know they were happening. I questioned your description of HOW.
You can't cross a median on any freeway within city limits. They all have physical barriers separating each side.

And I know all to well about the one on Greenway. I used to live off of 29th Ave and Greenway. Right next to I-17.
Even to this day they still can't keep that underpass from flooding during heavy rain. 3 pump redesigns on that mess and it still fails.
The two girls were sisters (17 and 19) who were killed because of an idiot.
 

sleepydinosaur

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So where are you going to go that is safer?
Its not about safety, it's about culture and quality of life. Phoenix was a decent place to grow up but I'm ready to leave it far behind. I was having too much fun in my 20's to care, was married through most of my 30's so I was busy trying to support my family. Now in my 40's, my kiddo is in high school with plans to go into the military. Once she does I am gone.

You love it here? Great. I hate it. Its become the antithesis to having a decent life in my eyes.
 
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rjohnstone

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Its not about safety, it's about culture and quality of life. Phoenix was a decent place to grow up but I'm ready to leave it far behind. I was having too much fun in my 20's to care, was married through most of my 30's so I was busy trying to support my family. Now in my 40's, my kiddo is in high school with plans to go into the military. Once she does I am gone.

You love it here? Great. I hate it. Its become the antithesis to having a decent life in my eyes.
With this we agree... Phoenix has gone down hill fast with the influx of California transplants.
At least the snowbirds would leave after spring training.
Personally I'd be living up in Pinetop if it weren't for the fact that it's a solid 4 hour drive to the office.
 

Aston441

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Sep 16, 2014
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The thing that gets me about this automated driver stuff: self driving software still isn't good at edge cases. The weird entirely unpredictable stuff that happens once in a lifetime and requires split second creativity or you crash and maybe die or worse.

I've driven approximately 1.2 million miles so far in my lifetime. I've never crashed. Nothing. Zip. No damage to any vehicle I've ever owned, and I've lived in places with the worst traffic imaginable. I've pulled off some miracles in edge cases that I can barely believe really happened.

The stats I've seen show the software objectively is no where near as good as I am at crash avoidance. (which is mostly about learning how to have people BEHIND me never hit me).

So I'd be at much greater risk than usual if I were in a self driving car at the current level of software.

It's kinda like Sully. No computer today, and maybe in the next 50 years, could have saved that plane. Some drivers are Sullys behind the wheel. I'm still are better off getting myself around.

BTW I'm a private pilot too, but I'm no Sully!
 

mi7chy

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Oct 24, 2014
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Never underestimate stupidity in a red state close to the border. (I've had 2 cars stolen, one used to run over someone. Both found in Mexico burnt to a cinder).
More reason, then, to use ride sharing service instead of burdening yourself with car theft. Let it be someone else's problem.
 
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