Google’s self-driv­ing car project: Waymo

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

The self-driv­ing car project that Google started seven years ago has grown into a com­pany called Waymo, sig­nal­ing its con­fi­dence that it will be able to bring ro­bot-con­trolled ve­hi­cles to the masses within the next few years. “We are get­ting close and we are get­ting ready,” Waymo CEO John Kraf­cik said Tues­day af­ter un­veil­ing the com­pany’s iden­tity. To un­der­score his point, Kraf­cik re­vealed the project had hit a key mile­stone in the journey to hav­ing fully au­ton­o­mous cars cruis­ing around pub­lic roads.

In a trip taken in October 2015 , a pod-like car with no steering wheel and brake pads drove a legally blind pas­sen­ger around neigh­bor­hoods in Austin, Texas with­out an­other hu­man in the ve­hi­cle. It marked the first time one of the project’s cars had given a pas­sen­ger a ride with­out a hu­man on hand to take con­trol of a self-driv­ing car if some­thing went wrong. Kraf­cik called that trip taken by Steve Ma­han, for­mer di­rec­tor of the Santa Clara Val­ley Blind Cen­ter, an “in­flec­tion point” in the devel­op­ment of self-driv­ing cars.

It came a year be­fore a Bud­weiser beer truck equipped with self-driv­ing tech­nol­ogy owned by ride-hail­ing ser­vice Uber com­pleted a 120mile trip through Colorado while be­ing steered by a ro­bot while a hu­man sat in the back of trailer. In do­ing so, Kraf­cik and other sup­port­ers of self-driv­ing cars be­lieve the tech­nol­ogy will dras­ti­cally re­duce the num­ber of deaths on the roads each year be­cause they con­tend ro­bots don’t get dis­tracted or drunk, nor ig­nore the rules of the road, like hu­mans do.

While Google’s self-driv­ing cars were still in the re­search-and-devel­op­ment stage, its lead­ers in­di­cated the ve­hi­cles would be com­mon­place by 2020. Kraf­cik de­clined to up­date the timetable Tues­day, say­ing only that “we are close to bring­ing this to a lot of peo­ple.” Waymo’s tran­si­tion from what once was viewed as a long­shot ex­per­i­ment to a full-fledged com­pany marks an­other step in an effort to rev­o­lu­tion­ize the way peo­ple get around.

Mak­ing bet­ter driv­ers

In­stead of driv­ing them­selves and hav­ing to find a place to park, peo­ple will be chauf­feured in ro­bot-con­trolled ve­hi­cles if Waymo, au­tomak­ers and Uber re­al­ize their vi­sion within the next few years. Waymo’s name is meant to be short­hand for “a new way for­ward in mo­bil­ity.” The newly minted com­pany will op­er­ate within Google’s par­ent com­pany, Al­pha­bet, which was cre­ated last year to over­see far-flung projects that have noth­ing to do with Google’s main business of on­line search and ad­ver­tis­ing. —AP

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