Robotaksi Waymo not quite ready to go on public roads

    Robomobils produced by Alphabet holding, or rather, one of its divisions, Waymo, may not be ready to enter public roads. And this is despite the fact that the developers stated that the commercial launch of the robotaxi service will take place already this year.

    Robot vehicles are tested in test mode in the city of Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Phoenix residents are not too happy with the robots, arguing that they still have too many shortcomings for the service to be called complete. Among other problems - difficulties with pouring into the general flow of traffic on the road, turning left, rounding groups of people.

    In this city, Waymo uses Chrysler Pacifica minivans as the main vehicle of its taxi service. The automatic machine control system acts as an “ideal driver”, observing all traffic rules, including those that people drivers do not always consider necessary to execute. For example, robomobili often stop on the track for three full seconds before the stop sign. Actually, there is nothing criminal in this, but the locals are not afraid of this behavior of robotic machines. Among residents, a survey was conducted about the attitude of residents to roaming vehicles. Many of them replied that they simply "hate them."

    Waymo representatives say the company was founded with the goal of making roads safer. That is why robomobili comply with all the rules of traffic rules, even those that can be considered redundant in some cases. Yes, and now testing machines with an automatic control system is underway, perhaps over time, some "lines of conduct" will be changed to more flexible ones.

    As for the tests, Waymo is the leader among all the companies that deal with robots. Its robotaxi has already rolled over 10 million km on public roads, and over time this distance will only increase. But until now, robomobils in the most difficult cases act according to the instructions of remote operators. Experts help machines with an automatic control system to act in cases where the computer cannot find a way out of a difficult situation on its own.

    And here is a rather strange situation. On the one hand, Waymo claims that its vehicles are able to ride the roads themselves, without any driver involvement at all. On the other hand, company representatives admit that they still use the help of operators. Moreover, at first, even during paid trips, the operator will be present in the cabin, who will quickly solve difficult problems on the road, if they arise.

    And by the way, not only Waymo plans to launch a robotaxi service soon. GM and Ford promise to do the same in 2019 and 2021, respectively.

    According to Waymo spokesman Ronnie Cohen, the weirdness of the car is nothing else, as a result of the more “attentive” attitude of the vehicle to the road. In other words, the robot computer notices much of what a human driver does not see. Analyzing this information, the machine acts on the basis of the current situation. It can calculate the speed of a passing car, determine the number of nearby vehicles, define a “window” that allows merging with the traffic flow. But all this takes time, so from the side of the rototaxi it may seem very slow.

    In order to make the vehicle completely autonomous, that is, to increase its “robotization” to the fifth level, almost all companies that are engaged in the development of robotaxi will have to work, and a lot. Perhaps that is why Tesla Inc is not yet too eager to make their cars fully robotic, with an autonomy level of 4-5. Electric cars have reached the second level of autonomy and the company, and the owners of Tesla cars still have enough of this.

    Waymo is actively working to improve their fourth level, when the car rolls on the roads on its own, but still under the supervision of the operator. On the other hand, if the computer has not yet learned how to make decisions promptly when merging with the main traffic flow, or it’s probably too early to talk about taxi service robots.

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