Tuesday 25 June 2019

Self-drive pioneer Waymo seeks to reassure passengers with demo

Waymo is owned by Google parent Alphabet
Waymo is owned by Google parent Alphabet

Waymo yesterday showed off a 360-degree video to help people envision what it is like to ride inside an autonomous vehicle.

The company, which is on the cusp of launching self-driving journeys with real people, hopes to win over potential passengers.

Waymo, which is owned by Google parent Alphabet, said in a blog post that it had driven more than five million miles (8.05 million km) on public roads, doubling its miles since January 2017, when it unveiled its improved self-driving system installed in Chrysler Pacifica minivans at the Detroit auto show.

It comes ahead of what will be Waymo's first foray into ride hailing with no human behind the steering wheel in Phoenix, Arizona, in coming months.

Convincing a potentially wary public of the merits - and safety - of self-driving is a key goal of Waymo, considered a pioneer in the global race to deploy autonomous vehicles.

A Gallup poll published last week found that 54pc of the 3,297 US respondents said they were "unlikely" to use self-driving cars, with 59pc saying they would feel uncomfortable riding in one. The survey was conducted in September and October.

Large tech companies, big automakers and well-funded startups have been testing such cars, but for the most part real passengers have not yet been added to the mix.

Experts believe self-driving cars used in fleets for cab-hailing services are among the most economically viable ways to deploy such technology broadly.

The US state of Arizona has no restrictions on self-driving cars, which has made it a key testing ground for the technology.

Waymo said in November that members of the public using am ride-hailing app would be able to travel in its fleet of minivans in ensuing months.

At first, a Waymo employee would accompany the passengers in the back seat, but eventually they would travel alone.

The company has been testing its cars in Arizona with an employee in the back seat and no one at the wheel since October.

The passenger service is expected to roll out in more geographical areas in the United States, at a later, unannounced date.


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