One-way streets, double-parked vehicles, pedestrians, perpetual roadworks, fog… We will finally know where it really is Google’s autonomous car technology. Waymo, the transportation subsidiary of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) announced Wednesday the arrival in San Francisco of its robotaxis service for passenger tests. A much more complex challenge than in Phoenix, where Waymo is present since 2017 and offers limited commercial service.
Google’s robotaxis will initially only be used by Waymo employees, volunteers to collect data that will be used to improve technology.
In Phoenix, commercial driverless service, either in vehicles or remotely, is available to a limited number of customers. The American city, located on a plain, well squared, little pedestrian and very sunny, lends itself well to exercise.
In San Francisco, Waymo will have to face “the hills that follow one another and the great sandy roads by the sea, the narrow streets and highways, the bike lanes and the tram rails,” the subsidiary points out in its statement. “Building an autonomous driving service that can deal with this complexity safely and efficiently represents a great engineering challenge,” the company adds.
Duel with Tesla
Waymo ensures that it has already begun to adapt its sensors and software to a denser and more volatile urban environment, to detect even pedestrians who cross the road outside of the nails, coming out from behind a vehicle, for example. The city and its region are not entirely new to the system. “The Waymo story began in the San Francisco Bay Area,” recalls the subsidiary.
The brand’s cars completed their first “1,000 autonomous miles” in California, including in the tech capital and in Silicon Valley, where Google is located.
Waymo has gained an edge over other companies in the race for autonomous technology, such as Tesla and Uber. An Uber autonomous car was involved in a fatal accident in March 2018, forcing most groups involved in the technology to re-evaluate their safety systems.
Cet été Elon Musk, the patron of Tesla, s’est de son côté declare «extremely confiant qu’on aurait très rapidement les fonctionnalités de base d’une conduite autonome de leveau 5, qui est en gros l’autonomie complète (…) this year. “But he had already promised the autonomous car for 2018, then assured that robotaxis would circulate in early 2020.
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