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  • (enticing music)

  • - Hey it's Andy with "The Verge."

  • I'm about to go for a ride

  • in one of Waymo's fully driverless cars,

  • here in Phoenix, Arizona.

  • As you can see, there is no driver in the front.

  • I'm not nervous.

  • Are you nervous?

  • I'm not nervous.

  • Here we are, riding in a minivan

  • with nobody in the front seat, with pedestrians,

  • and cyclists and other vehicles out on a public road.

  • It's a surreal experience.

  • Google has been working on self-driving cars

  • for over 10 years now.

  • In 2016, Google spun out its project

  • as a separate company called Waymo.

  • And since then, it's been testing hundreds of vehicles

  • here in Arizona,

  • mostly for an Uber-like ride hailing service

  • called Waymo One.

  • Few years ago, I had the chance

  • to ride in one of Waymo's driverless vehicles,

  • but it was on a private enclosed course.

  • And since then, most of the trips that Waymo does

  • in its autonomous vehicles,

  • including the one that we took last year,

  • have trained safety drivers in the front seat, until now.

  • It says, "Good morning, Waymo rider.

  • "Our destination is Baby Kay's Cajun Kitchen."

  • It's asking me to start the ride, so let's do that.

  • - [Waymo Car Voice] Heading to Baby Kay's Cajun Kitchen.

  • Please make sure your seat belt is fastened.

  • - All right, so we're pulling out of this

  • parking lot right now and onto a public road.

  • Oh, there goes another Waymo car.

  • As you can see, we're in the Waymo central here.

  • They just waved to us.

  • I don't think they knew that maybe wasn't anybody

  • in the front seat there.

  • And then we just made a right-hand turn,

  • and changed lanes into the center lane.

  • It's very natural.

  • So here comes some construction right here,

  • which is very challenging for self-driving cars.

  • And it kind of handled it with really no problem at all.

  • It slowed down a bit, now it's changing lanes.

  • And it just kinda breezed past that construction site

  • there as if it was being driven by a human, quite honestly.

  • This is our destination.

  • Nothing really eventful to speak of.

  • Now, it's coming back right now,

  • and we're gonna take it for a ride

  • back to where we came from, which is the Watershed.

  • Waymo was nice enough to let us choose the pick up spot

  • and the destination for where we're going.

  • We had to vet it with them first,

  • but still, it's nice to know

  • that there's a little bit of dynamic decision making

  • going on here with this car.

  • I'll get in first, if you don't mind.

  • All our stuff is still here.

  • That's great.

  • We can trust these robots.

  • This time I'm gonna press the button up here

  • on the headliner, which is another way

  • that we can get the car to get going.

  • That was a pretty nice acceleration there,

  • not as cautious as you maybe expect.

  • It felt very organic.

  • Yeah, that's really, really weird,

  • seeing the steering wheel move on its own like that.

  • I like the notice on the steering wheel, too.

  • It says, do not touch steering wheel or pedals,

  • the vehicle will pull over.

  • As sort of a warning to anyone

  • that might try to mess with the driverless car.

  • Looks like we're gonna be taking

  • a right-hand turn here on Henkel,

  • which looks like it's gonna be into some

  • bit of residential area.

  • So away from the more heavily traffic commercial zone

  • that we are in and into a more of a residential zone.

  • Interesting.

  • So it looks like we're making a bit of a routing correction.

  • We're going back the way we came, and the car is making

  • some adjustments into the route that it's choosing.

  • Obviously, we'll allow that. (laughs)

  • We have to make some allowances

  • for a car with nobody in the front seat.

  • It'll be interesting to see how Waymo smooths out

  • some of those things, though, going forward,

  • as this becomes a service that is available to more people.

  • And it looks like we're gonna be turning

  • into the left turning lane as we approach our destination.

  • And this is the part where I get a selfie

  • for my own purposes.

  • I'm about to take a left turn in a fully driverless car.

  • - [Waymo Car] Arriving shortly at Watershed.

  • - We did it!

  • And we're making our way slowly around the parking lot

  • to drop us off at the entrance to The Watershed.

  • And then we'll be done and we will say goodbye to our Waymo.

  • Oh, it stopped for the pigeons, you love to see it.

  • You absolutely love to see them stopping for the pigeons.

  • No other company is testing fully driverless vehicles

  • at the scale and speed that Waymo is.

  • The company has trained its AI with a vast data set

  • of images and driving scenarios.

  • It has a highly detailed high-def map of the whole area

  • down to the centimeter.

  • It took Waymo a decade to get to this point,

  • where it felt confident enough in the safety

  • of its technology to pull drivers out of the driver seat.

  • But, you know, only for a tightly controlled

  • 50 square mile area, mostly suburban

  • and mostly dry conditions, with a pretty basic road layout.

  • And these vehicles aren't totally alone in the wilderness.

  • Waymo has a team of remote employees

  • that watch the real time feed

  • from each of the vehicle's eight cameras,

  • and can help with the touch of a button

  • if the software runs into a tricky spot

  • and needs a human eye to figure it out.

  • - These folks don't joystick the car or anything like that,

  • but they can help answer specific questions

  • that a car might have about an ambiguous situation.

  • And that's where human intuition and human understanding

  • of the entire context is super important.

  • Like that moving van, is it really staying there?

  • Or is it about to start driving?

  • Well, if the door's down

  • and they're unloading a lamp out of the back,

  • it's gonna be there for a while.

  • That's not something we've gotten around to making the car

  • smart enough to understand, but a human sees it in a moment

  • and can send that signal.

  • So it's not really a command to the car,

  • it's just adding information.

  • - [Andy] When you think about self-driving cars,

  • you probably picture something from like "Minority Report"

  • or "Total Recall."

  • - Drive!

  • - Fully driverless cars with no one in the front seat,

  • or maybe no front seat at all,

  • or a steering wheel for that matter.

  • While Waymo's driverless vehicles

  • are getting us closer to that imagined future,

  • there's still a lot going on behind the scenes

  • that we don't see.

  • I mean, the level of production required

  • for each of these driverless vehicles is immense.

  • Sensors, cameras, compute, AI,

  • remote assistance operators, fleet managers.

  • Experts estimate that each self-driving test vehicle

  • could cost $400,000 alone.

  • And that's just taking into account the sensors and compute.

  • Is all of that really worth it?

  • Waymo seems to think so.

  • I mean, human beings are terrible drivers.

  • The vast majority of vehicle crashes, like over 90%

  • are because of mistakes made by human drivers.

  • Self-driving cars could be safer,

  • but we really just don't know yet.

  • There just aren't enough of them on the road

  • to really prove that out.

  • So we'll have to wait, until they bust out

  • beyond this tiny section of suburban Arizona

  • and to a much larger and more dangerous

  • and more complex world before we know

  • whether self-driving cars are really worth all this effort.

  • If you'd rather see a video about electric cars,

  • we just did a drive with Porsche's new all electric Taycan

  • outside of L.A., in the mountains.

  • It was a gorgeous video.

  • I highly recommend you check it out at youtube.com/theverge.

(enticing music)

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B1 driverless front seat seat driving steering wheel ride

I took a ride in Waymo’s fully driverless car

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/10
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