Google’s Self-Driving Car Could Be Just Months Away

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Google spin-off Waymo has been aggressively pursuing its self-driving plans, and is now believed to put its first fully self-driving car on the United States road this fall. If this happens for real, many predictions about the full self-driving car taking another decade would be biting the dust.

According to a recent report from The Information, Waymo is all set to launch its first driver-less, fully automatic car this fall. The car is reportedly meant for commercial purposes, and there would be no human ‘safety’ drivers in it.

Further, the report states that Waymo CEO John Krafcik is under pressure from Alphabet CEO Larry Page to fast-forward the development of the fully self-driving car, and make it ready for commercial purposes as soon as possible. Page wanted the launch by the end of 2016, but as the deal with Ford to deliver the vehicles failed, plans had to be pushed further. Thereafter, Waymo went on to sign a deal with Fiat Chrysler to supply minivans, notes Ars.

Waymo, however, has still to find an answer for its most nasty glitch –‘the left turn’. The Google spin-off is using Chrysler vans, but these vans have been struggling to take a left if there is no green arrow in the picture. For now, Waymo has to force stop the cars that cannot take the left turns because the software is not smart enough, a person close to Waymo’s operations told The Information.

In its recent blog, Waymo also acknowledged the issue, saying, “At the corner of South Longmore Street and West Southern Avenue in Mesa, Arizona, there’s a flashing yellow arrow that permits cars to turn left.” Such kinds of intersections are tricky for humans, as well as, self-driving cars, because a driver first needs to move in the five-lane intersection and then look for a gap in oncoming traffic, the company said.

“Turning left too soon may cause a driving hazard for oncoming traffic; making the move too late may mean frustrated drivers behind,” the blog read.

Waymo is currently testing its autonomous vehicles in Phoenix, Arizona. And, going forward, the company plans to remove training wheels along with the driver. Once the car passes the test, Waymo might look to test the car in various other areas, but for that there have to be regulations in place to make sure the driver-less cars are indeed able to run on their own.

After starting the self-driving experiments in 2009, Google can comfortably say that it is ahead of the competitors. But, the race to put the first fully self-driving car on the road is still wide open with big names like Uber and General Motors also testing the self-driving cars. Recently, General Motors claimed that its technology for driver-less cars is better than its competitors, and they have done rigorous testing in complex urban settings rather than the less populated areas, notes Forbes. General Motors could be hinting that its rivals are taking an easy route by choosing a relatively quieter area to test their driver-less cars.

Kyle Vogt, CEO of Cruise Automation, the tech startup acquired by GM in 2016 said, “The reason we do this is not because we think it’s fun or interesting from a technical perspective, but because we think it’s absolutely necessary to accelerate the process toward releasing driver-less vehicles.”

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