Personal transport itsn't the objective
Waymo's technology is too expensive for personal vehicles. Trucks are the real objective. So why not use minivans as a stepping stone?
Waymo, the one-time driverless car division of Google, has ditched its original self-driving car, the Firefly, in favour of a fleet of hundreds of robot vans. The little autonomous vehicle, which was a regular feature of stock image libraries the world over, has finally been binned by the standalone Waymo firm, a subsidiary of …
I don't see why it should be too expensive. A quick Google suggests that 90m cars and light commercial vehicles were sold last year. That's some serious economies of scale. I don't know what a lidar sensor costs, but simple radar is pretty cheap nowadays, as are decent cameras and computers.
Once you're looking to manufacture in the millions, it's amazing how costs fall.
I think the move to a van is simply that they're dialling down the hubris a bit, so why waste money on designing a custom vehicle, when you can buy something much cheaper that's been mass produced, and just modify it a bit. Minivans make sense, as there's room in the back for test gear, plus observers.
Why don't they do it now with human-driven delivery vans? Corner the vehicle and hold the driver at gunpoint and you can do it now without waiting for a robot driver (who could well refuse to open its doors until it's at its destination--I'm not figuring this for to-the-door delivery but rather depot deliveries where a dedicated receiving area is expected).
If you want to rob a delivery van, just follow on a street where most of the houses have alleyways behind them so he can't pull in a driveway, and wait for him to carry a package up to the front door of a house without closing the rear of the truck. I see them leave the back open all the time around here when they have deliveries in more than one location so he'll bring the package up to one house, return to the truck for the other and deliver that.
Just help yourself to whatever looks valuable and take off. If you time it right he won't even see you do it. I'd guess the trucks have cameras in the rear so you might want to cover your face and license plate of your getaway car.
How are robot delivery cars going to make this easier? You wouldn't need a "bop a driver over the head" unless it is an armored car. You think a Fedex driver is going to try to stop someone who wants to cut open the back of his van and steal packages? I'll bet they are trained not to try to confront anyone, but rather get to safety and call the cops, in that order. The robot delivery car would do the same, except there's no "get to safety" so it would call the cops quicker.
This is SO far down the road for practical usage it is barely newsworthy. The tech isn't there. It is pretty amazing, but there are so many random things to deal with as a human driver that you can't account for all of them. If these things go live, it will last as long as it takes for one to kill a pedestrian and that will be all she wrote.
Isn't it about time all houses and business addresses were able to buy a security type box to allow delivery drivers to deliver a package, and get a "receipt" back from said box that proved they had delivered something... The box could then email/txt it's owner to say something had arrived.
Just needs a simple numeric entry code, for delivery driver to enter that opens a top flap, and they then put item inside, which then drops down beneath a second "flap" to prevent said driver making off with any previously delivered items. Box can be mains powered and have a wifi connection to local router and a small screen that showed a QR code, which is the equivalent of customer signature.
It could probably be driven by a Raspberry Pi and for security, it gets bolted to the outside of the building,
I've seen Amazon type boxes in some stores, which is a half-way house sort of system, but surely someone could easily come up with a suitable design?
PS If anyone takes on this idea, we share profits OK ;-)
Existing protocol already takes most things into consideration. Meanwhile, not everything will work with any "set-and-forget" system. Low-priority stuff can be left at the door, higher-priority stuff usually requires a signature. Meanwhile, you have fragile and other goods that can't really be "dropped".
Anyone who needs something a little more usually rents a box that usually also has an attendant for oversized items.
Minivans are like SUVs. Although normally built to carry people, they're not difficult to convert to cargo use (in this case, fold down or remove the back seats). They're also considerably less expensive than full-on vans which are probably overkill in this case, given how small the original Firefly was.
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