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Google ditched autopilot driving feature after user napped

Waymo, a self-driving car company spun out from Google’s parent company Alphabet, has stopped developing features that require drivers to take control in dangerous situations, its chief executive has said.

Autopilot reliance has left users prone to distractions and ill-prepared to manoeuvre, the company said.

The decision followed experiments of the technology in Silicon Valley that showed test users napping, putting on makeup and fiddling with their phones as the vehicles travelled up to 56mph (90kph).

 

Alphabet’s self-driving car unit Waymo (pictured) has stopped developing features that required drivers to take control in dangerous situations, its chief executive said on Monday 

SELF-DRIVING CARS

Other self-driving automakers include similar autopilot features for highway-driving in vehicles, but they require drivers to take over the steering wheel in tricky situations. Waymo planned to do the same. 

However, autopilot reliance has left users prone to distractions and ill-prepared to manoeuvre, the company said.

The decision followed experiments of the technology in Silicon Valley that showed test users napping, putting on makeup and fiddling with their phones as the vehicles travelled up to 56mph (90kph).

Waymo is running a ride-hailing pilot program around Phoenix, Arizona that chauffeurs an undisclosed, but growing number of users in self-driving cars.

John Krafcik, the head of Waymo, which was formed in 2009 as a project within Google, told reporters that about five years ago the company envisioned technology that could autonomously drive cars on highways as a quick way to get on the market.

Other self-driving automakers include similar autopilot features for highway-driving in vehicles, but they require drivers to take over the steering wheel in tricky situations. Waymo planned to do the same.

‘What we found was pretty scary,’ Mr Krafcik said on Monday during a media tour of a Waymo testing facility. 

‘It’s hard to take over because they have lost contextual awareness.’

Mr Krafcik said the company determined a system that asked drivers to jump in at the sound of an alert was unsafe after seeing videos from inside self-driving cars during tests.

The filmed tests were conducted in 2013, with Google employees behind the wheel. 

The videos had not been publicly shown until Monday’s event, Waymo spokeswoman Lauren Barriere said.

The company decided to focus solely on technology that didn’t require human intervention a couple of days after the napping incident, said Mr Krafcik, who joined as CEO in 2015. 

It has also since argued against allowing ‘handoffs’ between automated driving systems and people.

The decision followed experiments of the technology in Silicon Valley that showed test users napping, putting on makeup and fiddling with their phones as the vehicles travelled up to 56mph (90kph)

The decision followed experiments of the technology in Silicon Valley that showed test users napping, putting on makeup and fiddling with their phones as the vehicles travelled up to 56mph (90kph)

‘Our technology takes care of all of the driving, allowing passengers to stay passengers,’ the company said in report this month.

The two drive controls provided to passengers in Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica minivans are buttons for starting a ride and asking the vehicles to pull over at their next chance.

Waymo is running a ride-hailing pilot program around Phoenix, Arizona that chauffeurs an undisclosed, but growing number of users in self-driving cars. 

The service area is limited to well-mapped roads on which Waymo has extensively tested.

Krafcik declined to specify when the company would expand beyond the small experiment, saying only that such a moment is getting ‘close.’

He reiterated that the company is simultaneously also identifying ways to launch self-driving trucks, municipal transit services and partnerships with carmakers.

‘We see four potential applications, whether it’s Waymo branded or not,’ he said.

WAYMO’S NEW CAMPAIGN FOR DRIVERLESS CAR SAFETY

Alphabet’s self-driving car unit Waymo and several groups are launching a campaign aimed at convincing skeptical Americans of what they say is the value and safety of driverless cars, as Congress considers how it will regulate the technology.

The company said that it was teaming up with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Safety Council, and the Federation for Blind Children in a campaign called ‘Let’s Talk Self-Driving.’

The campaign says that self-driving cars could help eliminate most alcohol-related crash deaths and allow the blind broader access to personal transportation. 

Waymo, which began as the Google self-driving car project, said the campaign will begin on Monday in Arizona, where the company is testing self-driving cars. 

It is set to include digital ads, outdoor billboards, fuel pump advertising and radio spots.

The company declined to say how much the advertising campaign will cost.

Reuters 

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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