Recently, Waymo began inviting members of its Early Rider program in Phoenix to make trips in their minivans totally without a driver. These are normal people who signed up in 2017 to serve as guinea pigs for Google's spin-off experiments in autonomous transport. And, as you can see in this new video released on Tuesday, the experience is equally exciting and boring.
In the video, passengers laugh nervously when they see the driver's empty seat, wondering aloud if passers-by are also a little scared and making casual references to the "future." Then, very quickly, as is common among most of the ride-hailing passengers, they begin to move away. They look at their phones, they yawn and even one falls asleep. When they arrive at their destination, they do not thank the driver but the car.
They look at their phones, they yawn and one even falls asleep
To be sure, a Waymo employee and a camera operator were in the vehicles during the rides, though not in the driver's seat. Waymo plans to keep a staff member in the car for the initial phase. I rode in one of Waymo's driverless minivans (on a closed test track, not on a public road), so I can attest to the fact that the excitement quickly disappears after you see how cautiously the vehicle is driven . There is something disturbing about riding a car without a human behind the wheel, but your brain adapts quickly to the experience.
Still, numerous surveys suggest that cars that drive cars, despite their potential to save lives, scare most people. The idea of putting your life in the hands of a vehicle without a driver is disconcerting, given that technology is still largely difficult to achieve. Public education, like the announcements and videos released by Waymo in recent months, will be crucial in helping people overcome their initial fears.
As such, Waymo & # 39; s Early Riders will undoubtedly be presented at the front and center in the company's public relations campaign. To date, none of the members of the program has been interviewed or publicly identified. (Waymo has them under strict confidentiality agreements). But when the time comes to expand the program to the general public, it is likely that Waymo relies heavily on the testimonies of these ordinary people.
Waymo released this video along with a public presentation by his CEO John Krafcik at SXSW in Austin, where he is expected to announce some of his company's recent advances. These include the state of Arizona that gives Waymo a permit to operate a driverless transportation business and the completion of 5 million miles of tests on public roads. It is likely that Krafcik also mentions the recent Waymo agreement with Fiat-Chrysler to dramatically expand its fleet of autonomous vehicles.
Currently, Waymo has 600 Chrysler Pacifica minivans in its fleet, some of which are used in its Early Rider program in Arizona. The first 100 were delivered when the association was announced in May 2016, and an additional 500 were delivered in 2017. Waymo also has test vehicles operating on public roads in San Francisco, Atlanta, Washington State and Michigan.