Taking a truly driverless ride in Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica

Today was a first for me: I drove in a fully autonomous vehicle on roads without anyone behind the wheel.

They weren’t public roads, but they did have intersections, other vehicles, pedestrian traffic, cyclists and more, and the car managed a fairly long route without any human intervention – and without any cause for concern on my part.

I’ve done a lot of self-driving vehicle demos, including in Waymo’s own previous-generation Lexus test vehicles, so I wasn’t apprehensive about being ferried around in Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica minivan to begin with. But the experience still took me by surprise, in terms of just how freeing it was once it became apparent that the car was handling shit all on its own, and would continue to do so safely regardless of what else was going on around it.

Waymo’s test track at Castle (more on that facility here) included multiple intersections with traffic lights, a roundabout, cars stopped on the shoulder, crossing foot band cycle traffic and more. Even if these were staged, they’d be hard to replicate in exact detail every time, so despite the fact that Waymo clearly had more control here than they would out in the real world, the driving experience was still impressive.

02. November 2017

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