Autonomous driving: Waymo takes on New York City

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Autonomous driving: Waymo takes on New York City

Image: Waymo

On the rocky road to series production in more and more cities and under more and more conditions, Waymo, Alphabet’s autonomous driving company, is now tackling New York City. A first part of the city is to be mapped, and the “Waymo Driver” is to be able to cope with the adverse weather conditions in the metropolis.

Waymo, part of the Google parent company Alphabet, currently offers two different services: Waymo One, an autonomous driving service, and Waymo Via, a fleet of autonomous trucks and vans. The so-called “Waymo Driver”, as the company holistically calls the autonomous system, works in both. So that the Waymo Driver can cope with more and more situations, it must be trained, for example with new challenges in new cities. That’s exactly what is happening in New York City now.

In NYC, Waymo is manual to start

Waymo One has already started regular operations for everyone in Phoenix, Arizona, while the test phase continues in San Francisco, California and only “Trusted Testers” can use the autonomous driving service. However, the metropolis of New York City is likely to provide much more complexity. For Waymo, the first step is not directly autonomous driving, but mapping the city with all of its busy streets and complex intersections. Another challenge is the constantly changing layout of the city. In this step of development, Waymo will move its own vehicles through the street canyons using a purely manual process.

Test sensors in wet and cold conditions

Weather is another factor that Waymo in New York City will be forcibly tested in the coming months. Unlike in Phoenix and San Francisco, heavy rain and heavy snowfall are expected. The company has already gained experience in this regard in the northern US state of Michigan. In New York City, however, there would now be more opportunities to test the sensors in wet and cold conditions, explains Waymo. The knowledge gained will serve the Waymo Driver throughout the company’s fleet.

Waymo in New York City Waymo in New York City (Image: Waymo)

Trips planned in daylight

In New York City, Waymo is limited to the start of the test phase primarily on the Manhattan Peninsula and there the area south of Central Park down to the Financial District. A small area of ​​New Jersey is also covered by the rides via the Lincoln Tunnel. The company plans to run five hybrid Chrysler Pacificas in daylight, and the fleet will be expanded to include several all-electric Jaguar I-PACEs.

Cruise starts with autonomous journeys

Apart from Waymo, the autonomous driving services also continue elsewhere. Startup Cruise, founded in 2013 by Kyle Vogt and Dan Kan, taken over by General Motors in 2016 and funded by GM again with an investment of 5 billion US dollars this summer, is now starting autonomous driving in San Francisco after a long test phase – but initially only for employees and a few selected interested parties.

CTO and President Kyle Vogt did not miss the first trip at 11 p.m. with little traffic and significantly reduced complexity. Cruise had only received approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles in October for autonomous journeys during which no employee monitoring the process is sitting in the vehicle. These rides even with empty cars Cruise is allowed to operate between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. at a maximum of 30 mph (48 km / h) in San Francisco.

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