back to article Waymo's revolutionary driverless robo-taxi service launches in America... with drivers

In a groundbreaking leap into the future, self-driving car specialist Waymo has launched its first truly driverless taxi service, in Phoenix, Arizona – complete with a driver. That's right, after years of focused and intensive testing in the Phoenix area, the Google stablemate has today rolled out Waymo One, and hundreds of " …

Kevin McMurtrie
Silver badge

And a front passenger filing bug reports?

The Waymo cars need waymo work. They're still prone to cutting people off, doing dangerous things crossing bicycle lanes, changing lanes for no reason, stopping too early before an intersection, refusing to cross intersections, and randomly stopping in the middle of intersections. They're making the texting drivers look good.

Nick Kew
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Citation needed

'cos a reputable source backing that up (or otherwise) could be genuinely interesting.

Anonymous South African Coward
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<kirk voice>WAAAAYYYYYMOOOOOOOOOO</kirk voice>

Or what about "I' m sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that".

Or any memorable one liner.

Kevin McMurtrie
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I don't like it, Jim. A vessel this size cannot be run by one computer.

I ain't Spartacus
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"Please fasten seatbelt. You have 20 seconds to comply."

Teiwaz
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Message from Orions Arm.

Time to chase the entire population of the planet Earth back into the oceans for another couple of million years (trees no longer an option, as the monkeys appear to have cut them all down in order to wipe their bottoms with them), it's well passed obvious that any intelligence perceived earlier among the monkey people was mere fluke and a lot of them gathered round the same typewriter.

allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
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Some of the investors must be getting impatient.

fandom
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"He omitted to mention Elaine Herzberg, the 49-year-old who was struck and killed by an Uber self-driving car"

Since they are not likely to disable emergency braking in these cars I don't see why you would think that's relevant.

Francis Boyle
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Probably

He just didn't want to be seen to be gloating.

Warm Braw
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She was walking her bicycle across a highway at night

I wonder what fraction of the money spent on self-driving vehicles would be required to provide cycle paths in the cities in which it is intended they be deployed?

Mage
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Facepalm

Re: She was walking her bicycle across a highway at night

Or free public transport like the entirety of Luxembourg?

OK, not a big place.

How does someone with small kids and the weekly shop cope with a driverless taxi?

Go watch supermarket late on Friday, Maybe not in USA. Loads of people in other countries can't afford a car (actually usually it's the insurance that they can't afford).

Why are new entrants that are basically doing nothing useful allowed to continually push down driver wages and conditions and sell below cost financed by a massive Corp or foolish Venture Capitalists?

You could order by mobile phone before Uber. Traditional taxi and hackney companies that treat workers better also have apps.

Gene Cash
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Re: She was walking her bicycle across a highway at night

> You could order by mobile phone before Uber. Traditional taxi and hackney companies that treat workers better also have apps.

I challenge you to come to Orlando and try to get anywhere using one of the local taxi phone apps. You'll be sitting for a while, and probably hairless by the end of it.

"Complete shite" doesn't even begin to cover it.

Semtex451
Silver badge
Headmaster

"an actual human being sat several feet away"

"just ask Chuck seeing as he's sat here"

I suppose I just have to join the 21st Century and let go of the entire concept of grammar.

Waseem Alkurdi

I suppose I just have to join

the 21st Century
1984 (Orwell) Newspeak and let go of the entire concept of grammar.

Ken Hagan
Gold badge

Substitute "placed" for "sat" and I think you'll have no trouble parsing the expressions. They might not be how you'd choose to express the sentiments, but they aren't some 21st century abomination unto Om.

This post has been deleted by a moderator

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

hurrah

for a cunning plan to kill off "early adapters" and "youtube influencers" and restore sanity to the homo "sapiens" :)

...

yes, it's a siren of a police vehicle outside: condoning physical violence online = terrori

ElReg!comments!Pierre

The sad truth about self-driving cars

Unless you completely remove non-self-driving vehicles and other minor inconveniences like wildlife, wheather or indeed pedestrians, there will always be moral cases where a choice needs to be made between porentially crashing the autonomous vehicle (with possible consequences for it's occupants) or merrilly zipping over an unexpected obstruction -or possibly both, as a recent Tesla "incident" showed. The question is, when this situation occurs, do we want some computer to make the call, especially as it may not have been programmed with the most ethical views in mind ("Hey Steve, can you ring PR and ask them how many kids we can run over before it becomes more expensive than losing a car?").

The only way to make safe driverless vehicles would be to put them on special lanes, perhaps specifically designed to avoid sharp angles; possibly with a system to keep them on trajectory at all times, like, some manner of metal railing? We could even mitigate the risk of collisions by having a bunch of them physically attached to each other. Oh, and then we could cut costs by devoting the propulsion function to a specialized unit. I think I'm on to something there, I'd better patent the idea before the Internet steals it!

jj99

Re: The sad truth about self-driving cars

There are no moral decisions to be made here.

It will do exactly the same as a human would... slam on the brakes and hope.

Waseem Alkurdi

Re: The sad truth about self-driving cars

The only way to make safe driverless vehicles would be to put them on special lanes, perhaps specifically designed to avoid sharp angles; possibly with a system to keep them on trajectory at all times, like, some manner of metal railing? We could even mitigate the risk of collisions by having a bunch of them physically attached to each other. Oh, and then we could cut costs by devoting the propulsion function to a specialized unit. I think I'm on to something there, I'd better patent the idea before the Internet steals it!

Have a good one for this. This.

hammarbtyp
Silver badge

Re: The sad truth about self-driving cars

The question is, when this situation occurs, do we want some computer to make the call,

I think the question is whether you want the computer to make the call or Steve, who passed his driving test last week, is driving back after an all night party and is concentrating on trying to tune his radio

The only way to make safe driverless vehicles would be to put them on special lanes, perhaps specifically designed to avoid sharp angles; possibly with a system to keep them on trajectory at all times, like, some manner of metal railing?

I think they are called roads

Mage
Silver badge

Re: perhaps specifically designed

But it's about 150 years old. Not shiny and modern.

Also how do you track the exact starting and finishing points, time etc so as to monetise personal information. We don't exactly know start & end locations of people using buses, trams and trains.

It's about the usage data more than automation. I suspect that's partly PR and partly to save cost on paying drivers.

ElReg!comments!Pierre

Re: The sad truth about self-driving cars

@hammarbtyp

I'll have Steve over Herbert, 94, who is driving to town to have his glasses replaced, in the old trusty Chevy which is perfectly fine but for the brakes that would probably need a good seeing-to.

And when it comes to deciding to go hit a street lamp instead of lil' old me, should the choice be such presented, I trust both better than a computer.

And I think they are called railroads, actually.

ElReg!comments!Pierre
Coat

Re: The sad truth about self-driving cars

It will do exactly the same as a human would... slam on the brakes and hope.

I don't think it will, because it should bloody well not. Unless you're doing under 40 mph on a dry and clean road, slamming on the breaks at the last second is not going to achieve much. Either you have ABS (or similar) and you will only hit the target at a slightly reduced speed, or you don't and you will lose contact with the road and hit the target sideways instead of head-on.

As most motorcyclists who managed to stay alive know (and as most drivers should know), slamming on the breaks, while an understandable reflex, is almost never a good idea (well, that's why they invented ABS in the first place).

In the case of the Uber accident, the computer actually went through the correct analysis phases, trying to determine which direction the obstruction could move so as to swerve and avoid it. It only gave up after it drew a blank for "bike behaviour".

On a motorbike the desirable action is to drop a gear and rev it to the max while aiming at the free portion of the road (the idea being that you'll be past the obstruction before it has the chance to move in any direction). Of course some cars lack the acceleration needed for this maneuver to be successful.

Mine is the leather one with the elbow, shoulder and back protections, thank you.

ElReg!comments!Pierre

Re: The sad truth about self-driving cars

while aiming at the free portion of the road

In an emergency obstacle-avoidance scenario that means throwing your weight toward the obstacle, by the way. I know, more counter-intuitive life-saving advice, but what can I do?

Wilco

Excessive Snark

Of course they are rolling it out to a tiny number of people in the easiest city they can find with humans to monitor it. That's how they get the data they need to scale it up and out.

This is how we do technology development in the 21st century - incremental delivery.

phuzz
Silver badge

Re: Excessive Snark

"This is how we do technology development in the 21st century - incremental delivery."

Except when they're being "disruptive".

Wilco

Re: Excessive Snark

Especially when they are being disruptive. Top of the list you linked to is SpaceX

They started off launching and in fact exploding a 21m, 27 tonne rocket in 2006. They are now sucessfully launching a reusable 71m, 1400 tonne rocket. Incremental delivery.

I ain't Spartacus
Gold badge

Re: Excessive Snark

I don't think this is excessive snark. It is very useful snark, carefully deployed to counteract some of the nauseating hype. And I love El Reg all the more for it.

I don't think this tech is ready for this level of incremental testing. Because I don't believe these driverless cars are safe enough to use on the roads unsupervised yet. To be fair to Google, they've set up their system rather better than Uber's slipshod effort. So they've not killed anyone. Uber's problem wasn't the technology failing - it was the fact that they had the "safety driver" filling in a fucking questionaire when she should have been looking out of the fucking window. Which is a horrific failure of both the staff involved for not spotting this incredibly obviously unsafe method of operation and the management who allowed it to happen. Or rather more likely given the awful quality of leadership at Uber - forced it to happen by deliberately cutting corners and generally not giving a shit.

Anyway Google presumably haven't had their drivers distracted by other work when they're supposed to be operating dangerous machinery. And worse dangerous machinery that works most of the time, but craps out occasionally - thus making for a much more dangerous operator boredom problem.

And now they're going to introduce paying passengers to that mix - risking the precarious concentration of their "safety drivers" in an already difficult situation where they're required to take over at a moment's notice.

I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

When they can reliably operate the cars for weeks on end without incident, then and only then should they be allowed to take paying passengers as an experiment. At the moment it's not proven that the cars are safe, but the taxi bit is an easy problem, that doesn't need to be solved until we're nearer the solution to the not killing everyone problem.

This is just a way of continuing the hype bandwagon, at a slightly increased risk to the public and employees of Google.

Alan Bourke

The whole driverless car thing

remains a non-solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

rmason
Silver badge

Re: The whole driverless car thing

The "problem" or various problem absolutely exists, we're just a way off solving it, safely at least. IMHO naturally.

Nick Kew
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Re: The whole driverless car thing

"... a problem that doesn't exist."

So they're lying to us about all those deaths and injuries on the road?

And all those kids who can't go out unsupervised 'cos of the danger are no more than their parents' neurosis?

And all those cars parked willy-nilly blocking everything must be an illusion?

ElReg!comments!Pierre
Terminator

Re: The whole driverless car thing

So they're lying to us about all those deaths and injuries on the road? And all those cars parked willy-nilly blocking everything must be an illusion?

Road safety is a complicated problem. These points that can be readily solved, and at a much lower cost, by ameliorating public transportation. But of course then you'd have to bear the other people using the same, which I know can be quite unnerving.

Please explain how autonomous cars would solve parking issues?

As for the neurosis part, I don't see where you are headed, but I don't suppose the idea of driverless thousand-kilogram masses of metal zipping around town is going to help with parents' neuroses. At least most human drivers are expected to show empathy, or fear of retaliation, or both. Running over another human being is quite horrifying for most of us, just look at the expression on the passenger's face in the Über accident. Most people would do almost anything in their power to avoid this, including putting themselves in immediate danger. Would an autonomous car put itself and its passenger in danger, should the choice arise? If so, they're probably not going to sell very well, as altruistic tendencies in people generally don't extend to accepting a sales pitch ending with "Oh, and the car will attempt suicide, possibly maiming you in the process, in order to protect innocent passerbys' lives".

I know that these cars have much better sensors than the typical human, but why not use these sensors' readings to raise the driver's attention instead of attempting to replace the human behind the wheel? A lot of cars already do that, to some extent.

DougS
Silver badge

Re: The whole driverless car thing

Driverless cars aren't a solution to fatalities. Well, they will need to be for people to accept them (my 90% decline in accident rate compared to humans in the same conditions standard) but for me the reason I'd want one isn't due to safety. These are the solutions as far as I'm considered:

1) I can take 1000 mile car trips instead of dealing with the nightmare flying has become if I can sleep in the car, surf the web, watch TV etc. instead of sitting behind the wheel having to pay attention

2) I can go out, get drunk, and have my car take me home instead of dealing with the hassle of taxis/lyft

3) In a few decades when I might be too old to drive safely, I won't have to depend on others for my mobility

ElReg!comments!Pierre

Re: The whole driverless car thing

I can take 1000 mile car trips instead of dealing with the nightmare flying has become if I can sleep in the car, surf the web, watch TV etc. instead of sitting behind the wheel having to pay attention

And yet we play Elite for the fun of it :D

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Where they'll end up

> it's only a matter of time before we see these machines on all our streets

No, not all of our streets. In some of the back alleys. In pieces. A lot of missing pieces, too.

Without a human driver, a driverless taxi is defenseless against thieves. In such cases, the crime would be only auto theft, no charges involving physical violence against a human could be brought. So the police won't prioritize them.

A 'driverless' car with its owner sitting inside is another matter. But taxis will be fair [fare] game.

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