Are we finally moving into the future promised to us by “The Jetsons?” Completely driverless cars are ready to take you wherever you want to go, even though most Americans aren’t too keen on the service yet.
Waymo has developed the driverless cars as its grand entry into the ride-hailing business. While Uber and Lyft have gobbled up the ride-sharing headlines, Waymos has quietly spent 10 years developing its driverless vehicles.
The cars will begin operating in one U.S. city, with others coming online soon, giving the average rider quite an experience.
Let ’em roll
Waymo vehicles have become a familiar sight to residents of the Phoenix Metro area, so it makes sense for Waymo One driverless cars to slowly roll out in that region before expanding to other areas.
Customers began receiving emails from the company, telling them riders will get a notice on their Waymo app informing them when they have been matched with a truly driverless vehicle. That means there will be no safety driver behind the wheel, so riders better prepare to see an empty driver’s seat. If there are any problems along the journey, riders can hit the help button.
Waymo began as the Google Self-Driving Car Project in 2009 and its technology has come a long way over the past decade. Waymo builds detailed three-dimensional maps that highlight information such as curbs, sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic lights, stop signs and more.
With a combination of sensors and software, the vehicle can constantly scan for objects around the vehicle, like pedestrians, cyclists, other vehicles, traffic controls and even identifying traffic light colors and temporary stop signs.
Waymo claims its vehicles can see up to three football fields away in every direction and its software predicts the movements of everything around the car based on their speed and trajectory.
Are we ready for the future?
In theory, Americans have always looked forward to the world promised by Disneyland’s Tomorrowland.
Reality has been a little different. A recent poll by the American Automobile Association (AAA) found that 7 in 10 Americans want nothing to do with driverless cars. The poll numbers were almost unchanged from 2018.
According to AAA, people had a more favorable view of driverless cars until a series of incidents involving autonomous cars, culminating in the death of a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona.
Needless to say, Americans are still taking baby steps toward fully automated cars; however, AAA found Americans are receptive to automated vehicles in more limited applications.
About half are comfortable with low-speed, short-distance forms of transportation, such as the automated walkways found at airports and theme parks. Meanwhile, 44 percent of those surveyed are okay with fully self-driving vehicles that deliver food or packages.