How common is this for other makes/models? If it is rare, I wonder if it influenced Google's choice of vehicle?
Side entry is going to be able to fit a wider range of vehicles because the installation is less invasive so you can support more vehicles for cheaper (kind of like how a static webpage can be viewed on basically anything but a fancy web app has a narrower range of browsers).
You can get a rear entry kit for pretty much every minivan that's on the market. You can get a side entry kit for that and more. I didn't bother checking but I know I've seen side entry but never rear entry kits on full size vans (also it makes sense that you can't put a rear entry kit on a full size van because there's a frame in the way).
Fundamentally you're limited by head room. You can't have people smashing their faces into the top of the door opening.
Google's choice was probably not influenced by the availability wheelchair van conversion kits.
Which got me recalling, I believe there is a self-driving startup dedicated to helping the elderly get around.
IMHO, to do less would be reckless showboating that could do unimaginable damage to the AV industry, as well as end up endangering lives.
In the tech industry, we don't like to wait, we like moving fast, taking risks, shipping MVPs, learning by shipping, etc. And for the next great Camera filter app, perhaps that makes sense, but not for cars, planes, or medical equipment.
"After following the sedan for about seven miles trying to get him to respond to lights and sirens, the officers guessed that the Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot driver assist system was engaged, so they pulled in front of it and started to slow down, according to a police report.
The sedan did the same, and the two vehicles safely came to a complete stop in the middle of the highway. With some difficulty, police roused the driver, who was identified as Los Altos Planning Commission chair ..."
I'm sorry but where does this "one year" expectation come from? What says that Waymo needs a year (or two years, or ten, or three months, etc) to start "scaling back the drivers"?
From what I can tell, the only way to judge the competence of their driverless systems is to compare where they are today with were they were 10 years ago when they started out. However, this is next to impossible- that data is not public.
So, where does that "one year" optimism come from? Autonomous driving won't magickally become easier in a year from now.
That’s hardly the only way to judge the competence of their driverless systems.
How does a self-relative measure capture the absolute goodness of the vehicle?
I'm much better at skiing than I was two years ago, but I'm not ready for the Olympics. My history is irrelevant to my ability.
My point is, the responsible thing for self driving companies to do is maintain safety drivers until confidence increases.
It's also very possible that there is a safer design for a car than having people sit right in front of huge glass panels.
As for getting rid of glass: safety glass is actually pretty darned safe. It pulverizes into shards in a collision. And, there are a lot of people, myself included, who will not be able to ride down the highway without a view out the front - otherwise, it will be barf-bag city.
A whole year! Truly sage-like wisdom from the MoveFastBreakThings generation of technical development.
It is simultaneously comical, exasperating and sad to watch this tragedy unfold.
We will slowly build our own, modern Deuteronomy - instead of forbidding the consumption of shellfish or stipulating gifts for former slaves, ours will talk about agency and skin-in-the-game and aligned incentives ...
Meanwhile, there will be a multi year (decade ?) period of experimentation where we will all be terrified as we drive at highway speeds and another vehicle approaches that road at a right-angle. Currently, I know what that vehicle will do, because all other choices lead to death-of-driver.
But in this near (and short lived) future, that other vehicle could do anything.
I’m not sure how much of it can be blamed on cell phone use, but I swear that human drivers have been getting substantially worse over the last few years (at least in the Bay Area). It seems like every single week I avoid a major accident from somebody doing something stupid or not paying attention. And I don’t even drive that much!
So while Waymo continues improving, it appears that the bar for them to be better than human drivers also keeps getting lowered.
That area's gotten bigger, and I moved to the Bay Area, which is bigger still. 2 decades on, It's not even worth COUNTING the number of vehicles without headlights on in the dark or rain. I never thought I'd be one to complain about too few police, but I see at least 10-20x as many vehicles with no headlights as I see cops (for example). Much of my commuting is on the freeway, and CHP are few and far between but also police aren't so common on surface streets either. And when they are there, they don't bother pulling anyone over for "small potatoes" stuff like this. I don't know if they're waiting for the next violent crime, or what, but it would be nice if they did a little "broken windows" policing.
Why don't they bother? I don't know. Probably because everyone's busy, everyone has a sob story, their stupid new car with its light-up instruments on 24x7 makes it LOOK like the headlights are on, the daytime running lights make you THINK the headlights are on, are you really going to give a ticket to someone just trying to pick up their kid from school?
I wish the answer was YES, but it just feels like everyone's stopped knowing or caring. When you don't own the same vehicle for 15 years, you have no idea how the controls on this week's lease work, there are too many cars on the road, the problem has gotten too big, tech has taken over too much of it.. everything just feels out of control.
In Arizona you pretty much have to make the cops do their job unless they think they can get you for a DUI then they'll pull you over for the slightest infraction. The things I've seen people do when there's a cop right next to me at an intersection and not get stopped is mind boggling.
My family always said about all the assholes on the road, you might be in the right, but you'll be dead right.
Driving is an absurdly dangerous thing to do. We don't tolerate that level of risk in almost anything else in life. It just so happens that getting around at 60mph is so useful that we accept the risk. As soon as we have an alternative to human drivers, it will seem insane to keep risking as many lives as currently do on the highways.
I don't share either the OP's confidence in the attentiveness of human drivers or yours in the existence of bug-free complex software
The biggest differences between the two is that (i) software bugs can be potentially be systematic across all vehicle types and sudden, whereas human failure modes are discrete (ii) we have pretty good data on human failure modes which set the mileage interval for catastrophic failure surprisingly high, even higher if excluding human failures linked to behaviours society has decided not to tolerate, such as DUI and road racing.
But to be honest, I'm so excited by this.
It's not like we don't have this problem today: the other vehicle could be drunk driver, tired, on the phone, texting, fixing their GPS, tending the baby in the back, etc.
As a newer motorcycle rider in the past few years, I am even more ready for automated systems to augment human ability when it comes to driving to address problems of distraction, poor reflexes, among other things - and honestly would feel safer driving next to a self-driving Tesla than next to someone coming home from work on the highway, with only 4 hours of sleep, powered by their 5th cup of coffee, etc. etc.
Notably, "At the start, Waymo-trained drivers will be riding along to supervise our vehicles for riders’ comfort and convenience."
Edit: Re-reading my comment, it sounds negative, so I want to acknowledge that I think this is a big deal. No matter how "soft" this launch, it's still a historic moment.
> We’re never done learning, and our early rider program will continue as a way for a select group to give us ongoing insights. They’ll help test early features before those new capabilities graduate to Waymo One. For example, we’ve already offered fully driverless rides to some of our early riders.
And the number of people with access to Waymo One is going to steadily increase over time:
> We’ll first offer Waymo One to hundreds of early riders who have already been using our technology. Over time, we hope to make Waymo One available to even more members of the public as we add vehicles and drive in more places.
So with that in mind, let's imagine if, for example, at some point in the near future 10,000 people have access to Waymo One and 1% of Waymo One rides are being completed without a safety driver. Would that satisfy your milestone? What about 100,000 people with 10% driverless rides? If Waymo eventually reaches a point where 95% of rides are fully driverless, and 1 million people have access to the app, would Waymo opening the app up to everyone _really_ seem like that significant of a milestone anymore?
However anticlimactic it may be when it arrives, that day is nonetheless the day when, in my mind, self driving cars have officially gone from zero to one. There will be no apprenticeship this year.
And it's still unclear to me if everybody is having their NDAs lifted, as they are making a distinction between early riders and Waymo One but not specifying if everybody is making the transition or just a handful of people (or hell, even any).
As always, time will tell - the rollout of this technology has been slow to those of us who have been following it over the years.
"Oh shit I'm late to the airport!" Get in car, car says, "Critical Updates required before start, please wait 5 minutes". Then 30 minutes goes by, update is at 99%, "Finalizing".
When its done, you say, "Ok car, get me to the airport ASAP!". Car says, "Sorry, why we optimize the download, speed is limited to 30mph, The ETA to your destination, the airport, is NaN"
EDIT: -silly \r\n +dangerous
That's the only difference of this "launch".
The next announcement from Waymo will be that they are cutting staff "mostly from R&D". The announcement after that will be that they are opening up the Waymo app for anyone to be a driver. The announcement after that will be that they are closing up shop or being sold to Uber.
But since Waymo will handle the vast majority of rides we'll just tune out those comments.
Handling all rides & conditions is a very hard problem and it'll take decades to solve.
But scaling from "a few" to "most" is a much easier problem and one that I have confidence that Waymo will achieve. And "most" can be very useful & profitable.
> We could even tolerate a little bit more errors because accidents would not be harmful too much.
instead of "harmful too much" you can simply use "fatal". 30km/h is a pretty magic value: below that speed pedestrian collisions are very rarely fatal. Serious perhaps, but not fatal. Above that speed they are often fatal.
But I’m not sure that the average human could even run 100m these days.
Maybe if this was Microsoft, and Waymo was the Zune.
Alphabet has given it some 9 years just to get to this soft launch, I think they have the patience to see it through. There is enough money and interest in this space internationally that I'd give it some time.
They can't come out right away and say "guys we failed at self driving, it doesn't work", that would tank the personal careers of everyone important in the company. They have to slowly move the needle away from self driving, and then they'll give us the bomb drop, "we could only build better safety systems, not self-driving systems" and nobody will care because they are happy with safe-driving.
If they truly had self-driving tech, they'd be doubling down on that with their messaging. Not only to let everyone know there's a new sheriff in town (bye Uber!), but also to let their competitor's know to start their death clocks.
I can imagine there are other scenarios where Waymo PR makes this post, even though Waymo has not totally failed at producing self-driving cars, but perhaps I'm being insufficiently cynical.
Calling Wqymo an Uber with employees is a pretty big insult to the most advanced sdc company so far. Uber's self driving attempt has failed. Uber is nothing without it's drivers.
If Google believes its tech is that far ahead, it makes way more sense to minimize risks associated with the public perceiving Waymo's system is dangerous, and let people get comfortable with being in a self-driving car.
That's exactly what would happen if a newly developed product killed some people. A human assisted rollout is a cautious strategy that allows them to learn in the real world without exposing their massive R&D investment to the fate of Uber's.
Eventually they will go the way of the elevator operator.
So if the car stops unexpectedly, the display might show, "waiting for a crossing pedestrian". Ideally with a simple map diagram of what's around the vehicle.
I'm sure the Waymo folks know that one of the largest barriers to success for automated vehicles is public perception and fear. Each time a rider rides in one of these, they get a beautifully rendered window into the car's brain, which helps build the trust needed to sell the technology.
You can sign up to express interest using the form at the bottom of this page (asks for your gmail address, zip code and type of phone).
P.S. Why is the mobile experience on Medium so frustratingly bad? Between the permanent heading plus the "please download our app" heading I find it maddening. I also find the UX around reading comments to be unnecessarily confusing.
Because they really want you to: "please download our app".
See also, Reddit
I believe they are trying to gain negative publicity, because you know, all publicity is good. you see such comments about every article (some of them by me)
In the other, it's video-based with now 100s of thousands of vehicles feeding data to a massive neural net.
Each has very well thought-out arguments for the approach they are taking, and I expect that both would ultimately 'work' by reducing the inherent risks of taking a car ride by a substantial amount (90%?). I think the winner will be the one who gets to that milestone soonest.
It's entertaining to watch.
An example would be that it now shows different vehicle types and even pedestrians near you yet when all surround objects are obviously not moving it still has them moving on the display. It still has issues with certain bridges and apparently it is hard coded disabled around certain bridges to the point there are videos of it not recognizing a merging semi.
with regards to Waymo's solution, I am concerned that it should have something in the driver's seat. I don't care if its a Total Recall "Jiffy Cab" type solution. not so much for the riders but for those who are also sharing the same road be that other vehicles or pedestrians. Something that clearly indicates it is under control.
Ie, I'd expect (as a layman) neural nets to be able to consume many different data types. Why limit to just one? I wonder what is better about just video, rather than video+lidar+audio+x+y.
Hell, one of the most neat things to me was how Teslas can scan multiple cars ahead to know of non-visible traffic blockages/etc. Using just video seems like a step backwards. Though, if it can produce better AI, I suppose it's still forwards.
other than cost? Teslas are consumer vehicles that are price sensitive.
Phoenix is the beginning for Waymo, what about Tucson, Dallas, Houston, Miami, San Diego, etc? Whereas, with Tesla, we'll likely see features rolling out slowly over time, an incremental push towards FSD, with owners being responsible for safety monitoring their own vehicle.
Would be fun to get another test with current technology to see how far we've come. Though self driving cars nowadays are more focused on safety, not speed.
Even if the AI goes off coarse it's going to be a lot harder to get into a in situations where "just point in the direction you want to go and pin the throttle" is not an acceptable solution in 2018 compared to 2004. The 2018 vehicle will be able to just ignore things that the 2004 vehicle had to actually navigate around.
We also have cars that are almost fully drive by wire in stock form which frees up a ton of resources for software and testing.
Basically in 2018 the vehicle side of things is a trivially solved problem and even with a "dumb" 2004 level AI at the wheel half the field won't DNF from mechanical failure
Whatever the sensing technology, everyone uses it to build a "state of the world" model which is then fed into algorithms for planning movement. Nobody (to my knowledge) just wires up input pixel neurons to output pedal neurons.
That's about where they've been for years now - almost autonomous, with a safety driver. Back in November, Waymo started sending some cars out without a safety driver. But they backed off on that.
I'm disappointed. I thought Waymo was ready to launch a real self-driving system. But no, not yet.
> In fact, last week the Information's Amir Efrati reported that Waymo may actually have moved backward recently.
> "Within the past month or so, due to concerns about safety, the Alphabet company put so-called safety drivers back behind the wheel of its most advanced prototypes, ending a year-long period in which those people generally sat in the passenger or back seat," Efrati wrote.
> We asked Waymo about this, and a spokesperson dismissed the report as nothing new, saying that the company regularly changes the mix of cars with and without safety drivers.
One could speculate they're planning ahead, making space for another brand, either a different variation of SDC as a service or some other type of product.
Maybe they'll have SDCs with multiple riders (like Uber Pool) and call it Waymo Share. Or maybe they'll have self-driving commuter buses (like Chariot) and call it Waymo Shuttle.
Once you've mastered SDCs, there are just so many applications that you almost expect to do multiple things with it. They could license to car manufacturers and call that WaymOEM, sell their own cars and call it Waymotors, do trucks and call it Waymo Freight, etc., etc.
I suspect that they won’t try to under-cut Uber too dramatically but the long-term costs are bound to be much lower if you don’t need to pay a driver. That illustrative price seems to match this. They certainly have copied Uber’s focus on identifying the best pick-up and drop-off based on many factors, notably road setup. I’m less sure about child seats: their copy and photo seem to imply that there are infant raisers. However, it would be unusual to have those in every car. I’m not seeing a way to indicate that you want one in the interface, and presumably, that’s a request per journey, not an account permanent status.
People have suggested advertising but I’m not seeing any of it in the screenshot, nor do I expect to see it any time soon, until their model has imposed itself.
The driveless car will average out with a lower cost. As a consumer you're guaranteed a ride somewhere and know it will be cheaper than Uber.
I'm optimistic in driveless car, but we need to be realistic that it wont be solved 100% in the near term...and it doesn't need to be for the taxi service to be profitable.
Ok, so it’s an interesting idea to use personal transit, but it could be done already without self driving vehicles, it might be economical. But it would be pretty niche.
Honestly, I'm surprised it's not something that Google have already built heavily into Maps. People often search for what they want (e.g. burger, pizza) - this would be an obvious time to offer deals or discounts to drive customers to particular businesses. You then expand to compete with particular retailers - someone searches for Nike specifically, they get offers from the nearby Adidas store.
This is not really any different to what happens with Google searches, where advertisers can buy keywords related to their competitors.
It will be bittersweet in a self driving car realizing that since I don't have to pay attention, I can do so much more with my time!.. and then promptly stare out the window for an hour.
And now I realize that in the first case, it is a personality issue where if I am stubborn/stiff/unyielding, I will get annoyed at unexpected movements. I find this to be true also with my wife :D
In cars it's largely about how much I can see outside, if I'm facing the direction of movement, etc. Usually in common vehicles I do not suffer unless I read/phone/etc. However in a bus-limo thing on a work retreat we all sat sideways.. on windy roads.. I could still see out the big windows, and tried to face my body forward but it was a rough, rough ride regardless.
I've never investigated it much, as it's such an awful feeling I have a hard time debugging it.
I'm in AZ often enough that I'd love to try it out for purely experiential reasons.