Google’s Waymo shows off video of first self-driving car ride

14 Dec 2016

The Waymo self-driving car. Image: Waymo

Waymo is the new name for Google’s autonomous car project, and to mark its birth, it has released a video of the first self-driving car ride through Austin, Texas.

While Apple continues to remain vague about its intentions of creating its own self-driving car, Alphabet (Google’s parent company) has taken another step towards making it a real possibility, with the decision to create an entirely new company called Waymo.

Continuing the technology’s development under the new name, Waymo’s CEO John Krafcik has issued a blog post describing what lies ahead – figuratively and literally – for autonomous vehicle technology.

Having taken to the roads of San Francisco in the summer of last year, the self-driving car made a trip with a passenger last October, which Waymo said was the world’s first fully driverless ride on public roads.

The person riding in the car was a friend of Krafcik, who is legally blind and therefore unable to drive a car.

1bn miles tested in simulations

In the video released only yesterday (13 December), Krafcik’s friend Steve Mahan was shown travelling through the suburbs of Austin, Texas with no incident.

“This ride was possible because our cars can now handle the most difficult driving tasks, such as detecting and responding to emergency vehicles, mastering multi-lane four-way stops and anticipating what unpredictable humans will do on the road,” Krafcik said.

“We’ve honed these skills over 2m miles of real-world driving, and in the last year alone, we’ve completed 1bn miles of testing in simulation.”

Beginning in 2017, Waymo will work with auto giant Fiat Chrysler to deploy ride-sharing vehicles, using the latter’s Pacifica vehicles to carry passengers.

“Our next step as Waymo will be to let people use our vehicles to do everyday things like run errands, commute to work or get safely home after a night on the town,” Krafcik added.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic