Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Waymo’s Safety Drivers Are Taking a Back Seat

October 31, 2017

Driverless cars are increasingly living up to their name. Alphabet’s autonomous-car team, Waymo, gathered reporters yesterday at its proving ground, a disused Air Force base called Castle, about 120 miles from San Francisco. The company’s aim: to show off the fact that its vehicles no longer need a safety driver.

And that’s pretty much what happened. Dozens of journalists were zipped around the firm’s fake city in driverless Chrysler Pacifica minivans, but unlike other demonstrations, such as our test ride in Uber’s driverless cars, this one included no Waymo staff member in the front seat bracing to take over in case something went wrong. Instead, people just hit a button marked “Start Ride” above their head, and the car did everything.

So ... rash maneuvers? Heavy braking? Crashes? Nope. Reports of the test rides, like this one from Gizmodo, convey an experience of overwhelming ... mundanity. Now, in the tightly controlled environment of a testing ground that’s what you'd hope for. But it’s also the exact response that Waymo wanted. A ride in a robo-taxi shouldn’t feel exciting but normal. That, after all, is how they will make it onto roads as real consumer products.

Indeed, the fact that Waymo is starting to offer up totally driverless rides in its cars raises a question: when will such vehicles start to become a commercial reality? Rumors have swirled recently that the firm could be months away from testing safety-driver-free cars as part of its ongoing trials with real families near Phoenix, Arizona. But “we’re really close” is all that Waymo’s CEO, John Krafcik, would say to Wired on the matter of a commercial rollout.

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Embracing CX in the metaverse

More than just meeting customers where they are, the metaverse offers opportunities to transform customer experience.

Identity protection is key to metaverse innovation

As immersive experiences in the metaverse become more sophisticated, so does the threat landscape.

The modern enterprise imaging and data value chain

For both patients and providers, intelligent, interoperable, and open workflow solutions will make all the difference.

Scientists have created synthetic mouse embryos with developed brains

The stem-cell-derived embryos could shed new light on the earliest stages of human pregnancy.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.