Tag: Google

By on July 15, 2019

Amazon is striving to put Alexa, the home assistant/listening device, into more automobiles in the coming years. As a result, the company is working feverishly to enhance her vehicular-related capabilities — including wriggling her way into the embedded software systems of new cars.

On the surface, it sounds great. Networking your car with your smart home device opens up a bevy of new conveniences and Alexa should also help your car get better at understanding everyday voice commands. In the future, you’ll be able to order groceries, check the stock market, call the office, and adjust the thermostat of your house and car without ever having to take your hands off the steering wheel. But this also opens up a bevy of concerns, now that we know Amazon’s employees listen to and record pretty much everything you say to the device — sometimes doing the same for background conversations that were never intended for Alexa’s ears.  (Read More…)

By on May 31, 2019

Alphabet’s Waymo probably operates the most successful autonomous fleet in North America right now. While we can debate its technical prowess versus its rivals forever, it’s still one of the only companies offering a commercial taxi service using autonomous vehicles in North America. It also has an enviable safety record.

The company has also worked on adapting the technology for Class 8 trucks, testing such units previously in California, Atlanta, and Arizona. Recently, the company tweeted that self-driving semis would soon return for more testing in Phoenix — where it runs its Pacifica-based early rider program — as the company places a renewed emphasis on their development. (Read More…)

By on January 24, 2019

The next time you use Google Maps to plan a road trip, you might notice some changes. Maps is now providing live updates on posted speed limits across the United States. Previously, this feature was only available in San Francisco. However, other parts of the country started seeing the feature crop up late last week as Google updated local servers.

This author saw changes on the app as early as January 18th. Travelling a bit too far from major metropolitan hubs or major highways has proven coverage has not yet gone nationwide. Google says it hopes to soon remedy that by implementing the service across the United States, United Kingdom, and select parts of mainland Europe. Of course, if you don’t want to wait, Waze (also owned by Google) has had this feature available for years, and remains the more robust navigation platform.  (Read More…)

By on January 22, 2019

waymo-michigan

Alphabet’s self-driving arm, Waymo, announced plans for a Michigan expansion on Tuesday. The company is currently seeking a location in the southeast section of the state and intends to hire up to 400 employees over the next five years.

According to a corporate blog post, the new new hires will be tasked with installing autonomous driving systems on vehicles built by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Jaguar Land Rover ahead of those vehicles entering the firm’s growing fleet.

“We’ll be looking for engineers, operations experts, and fleet coordinators to join our team and help assemble and deploy our self-driving cars,” the blog explains. “This will be the world’s first factory [100-percent] dedicated to the mass production of [Level 4] autonomous vehicles.”  (Read More…)

By on December 5, 2018

We’ve arrived. It’s officially #TheFuture.

After years of talk within the auto industry, Waymo says it will become the first company to offer a commercial taxi service using autonomous vehicles when the program launches in Arizona today. Called Waymo One, the Google subsidiary plans to offer the first batch of rides to the 400 individuals who participated in the firm’s pilot program. Afterwards, the service will be expanded to more riders in a broader area.

As with the company’s early rider program, Waymo wants to keep the launch small to assess demand while continuing the company’s testing in an environment it feels comfortable with. Based on the growing assumption that autonomous vehicles can’t handle inclement weather, Arizona seems like the perfect place to keep working out the bugs.

Similarly, public complaints have indicated Waymo’s fleet of Chrysler Pacificas may not yet be perfected(Read More…)

By on October 16, 2018

If reading about young brainiacs with God complexes and too much money living in Silicon Valley makes you ill, best not read this while eating. For everyone else, you’re encouraged to take a peek at this report in The New Yorker.

It’s a Marianas Trench-deep dive into what occured in the years leading up to last year’s filing of an intellectual property theft lawsuit by Google’s Waymo autonomous vehicle unit against ride-hailing company (and rival self-driving vehicle developer) Uber. The alleged theft is intriguing, but the behind-the-scenes accounts of what went on at Google’s pre-Waymo self-driving car effort is the stuff of HBO and Netflix. There’s crashes and mayhem, egos, genius, and money, money, money.

Absolutely no sex, of course.  (Read More…)

By on July 25, 2018

Remember how everyone talked about autonomous vehicles like they would deliver humanity into a cleaner, safer future where all the disgusting trappings of our past would be a distant memory? It’s not playing out quite like that. In fact, as the reality of self-driving cars inches ever closer, we’re seeing weird corporate partnerships and companies looking to make a buck anywhere they can as the consumer serves double duty as master and commodity.

If you need a present-day example, look no further. Waymo, the autonomous arm of Google parent Alphabet Inc., is launching a pilot program this summer that intends to shuttle passengers to Walmart and other partner locales. Members of the firm’s “early rider program” will be able to catch a ride to the retail outlet after using its online component to place an order (which qualifies them for discounts in the future).

While the goods are being prepared at the store, Waymo will dispatch a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica to the customer in order to bring them to it — sort of like a reverse delivery service. However, Walmart is far from the only corporate partner Waymo has right now.  (Read More…)

By on March 13, 2018

waymo-pacifica

After getting the go-ahead from Arizona, autonomous tech firm Waymo has implemented the first ride-hailing service in the country that doesn’t employ human drivers. One month after securing approval, and with no major incidents to date, the company has begun offering its autonomous taxi service to paying passengers. On Tuesday, Waymo CEO John Krafcik gave a speech at South by Southwest (the indie music festival that evolved into a media and tech bonanza) to showcase how things were getting on.

He said Waymo ditched the Phoenix test drivers and is readying its fleet of driverless Chrysler Pacificas for other parts of the country. The festival was then treated to a short video of passengers yawning. Those yawns are actually trumpets, however, heralding the introduction of autonomous vehicles in North America. (Read More…)

By on January 30, 2018

Waymo, the self-driving division of Google’s parent company Alphabet, just announced it has reached a deal to purchase a buttload of Pacifica minivans from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Alright, to be fair, it didn’t actually use the term “buttload.” It said Chrysler would provide “thousands” of units, which will ultimately be outfitted for autonomous driving.

Unfortunately, neither company seems willing to disclose an official count. Waymo currently has around 600 self-driving Pacificas in its fleet, so even an extra thousand vehicles would equate to a multi-million dollar deal and the exponential growth of its autonomous development program.

“With the world’s first fleet of fully self-driving vehicles on the road, we’ve moved from research and development to operations and deployment,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in an official statement. “These additional vehicles will help us scale.” (Read More…)

By on January 22, 2018

Waymo Autonomous Test Pacifica, Image: Waymo

Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, is testing the crap out of its ever-growing fleet of autonomous Chrysler Pacificas. While we know the company has already mapped dozens of North American towns, the majority of its testing takes place around Austin, Detroit, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Seattle, and especially Phoenix.

However, today the company tweeted out that it will add Atlanta, Georgia, to that list. Presently, Arizona is the only region where Waymo routinely operates vehicles without a human behind the wheel. But that’s liable to change as the firm gets more testing under its belt. Atlantans may be leaning out of car windows to snap photos of driverless vans soon enough.  (Read More…)

By on December 4, 2017

The internet is a black hole filled with an endless stream of stupid thoughts and bad ideas. While it’s usually best to ignore it, every so often something breaks through the obnoxious drone of social media that is so egregious, you couldn’t possibly turn a blind eye if you wanted to.

We are obligated to present to you a recent tweet from Vahid Kazemi, a software engineer for Google’s self-driving arm Waymo, and describe how it made us feel.  (Read More…)

By on November 7, 2017

waymo-pacifica

After spending most of last week showing off its tech to the media, Waymo is launching its driverless pilot program in Arizona. While the rides won’t technically begin for a few months, you can already get a taste of the action via video footage of company’s trio of testbed Chrysler Pacificas.

It’s impressive to see the Pacificas not run down any pedestrians, especially since none of them seemed to notice being approached by a van without a driver.

During a keynote speech at a tech conference in Lisbon, Portugal, Waymo CEO John Krafcik showed video of the firm’s test vehicles operating on public roads without any human supervision. “This wasn’t just a one-time ride or a demo,” Krafcik told the crowd. “What you’re seeing now marks the start of a new phase for Waymo and the history of this technology.” (Read More…)

By on October 31, 2017

waymo-pacifica

Commuting is awful. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have spartanly populated backroads between you and the office, that drive to work can be excruciatingly dull — with the only excitement coming from near misses and whatever terrible jokes drive-time radio offers up during that hour. When you get right down to it, most daily commutes are little more than unpleasant ways to add miles onto the odometer.

Of course, with the promise of autonomous driving, that experience is supposed to transform into a worry-free jaunt. But there’s a problem. Most self-driving systems of the near future will require operators to pay roughly the same amount of attention they do now. After all, if your car miscalculates a situation, you’ll want to be ready to take over the instant something seems awry. If that’s the direction we’re heading with this technology, I’m starting to think it might just be easier to automate all of our jobs instead of the the method we use to get to them.

However, at least one self-driving firm has abandoned the development of features that would require human intervention — leaving the car to make up its own mind in an emergency situation.  (Read More…)

By on October 26, 2017

waymo-michigan

There’s something we don’t often hear about when companies discuss the glory of the autonomous car: the lack of functionality of specific hardware during inclement weather.

Camera systems can be rendered ineffective when covered with ice and snow cover of an inch or more can easily obscure lane markings, leaving self-driving cars at a serious disadvantage. LiDAR, which operates using light beams, can be severely thrown in fog or whiteout conditions. Even if a blizzard doesn’t knock out the vehicle’s sensor array, its computer will still have to know how to mitigate slippery road surfaces.

Whether you’re human or machine, winter driving is extremely taxing. But technology companies hoping to build a self-driving car eventually have to move into snowy regions to advance testing. Some of the bigger automakers already have. Ford, for example, has begun extensive regional mapping — hoping to give cars handicapped by poor visibility a leg up.

Waymo has also decided it’s time to throw on a parka and winter tires. It’s heading to Michigan to start cold-weather testing next week.  (Read More…)

By on October 13, 2017

waymo-pacifica

Autonomous cars have the unique capability to captivate the public’s imagination while simultaneously making them feel uneasy after considering things on a more practical level. A handful of self-driving related accidents, inconsistent development timetables, and a hands-off regulation strategy haven’t helped. But there is a sense that if the populace had a better handle on what went into making the technology work safely, some of their fears would be put to rest.

This week, Waymo — the relatively quiet autonomous vehicle arm of Alphabet Inc. — made an attempt to do just that. While also making a case for itself and the need for self-driving cars, the company released a 42-page outline of how its autonomous systems function. Written without a lot of technical jargon, the reading remains comprehensive and is one of the best attempts we’ve seen from a company to educate the public — rather than dazzle them with lofty promises.  (Read More…)

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