Waymo's Automous Cars Are Coming to California Roads—Without Human Safety Operators

Illustration for article titled Waymo's Automous Cars Are Coming to California Roads—Without Human Safety Operators
Photo: Eric Risberg (AP)

Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Palo Alto drivers might want to watch out—Alphabet-owned autonomous vehicle firm Waymo just won the right from the California DMV to deploy its cars to those cities, without the characteristic human safety operators that have been a hallmark AV testing.


In a company blog post, Waymo noted that “it’s the first time that California has allowed tests on public roads of fully driverless cars ― that is, without a test driver sitting in the driver’s seat,” and elaborated that the permit includes day and night testing, on a variety of road types at speeds up to 65 mph. “Our vehicles can safely handle fog and light rain,” Waymo writes, suggesting the permit does not cover other forms of inclement weather. We’ve reached out to Waymo for clarification and further details on its rollout to these cities.

Self-driving and semi-autonomous vehicles have been involved in a number of heavily-scrutinized crashes over the years, including fatal autopilot incidents from Uber in Tempe, Arizona, and Tesla in Mountain View, California.

Though this permit allows Waymo’s cars to amble around without a human operator to take control, initial passengers won’t be members of the public. “Our first driverless rides will be for members of the Waymo team,” the post states, also claiming that “if a Waymo vehicle comes across a situation it doesn’t understand, it [...] comes to a safe stop until it does understand how to proceed.”

Senior reporter. Tech + labor /// bgmwrites@gmail.com Keybase: keybase.io/bryangm Securedrop: http://gmg7jl25ony5g7ws.onion/


A Short impromptu Sci-fi in the vein of the season:

A street floating in a partially flooded zone of San Francisco. —

Lacy huddled around the corner of the support structure, sweat pouring down her face as she tried to control her breathing. Not that anyone would notice, she had swam to the area from the nearest hab. “Relax!” she told herself. She kept on saying it even though it didn’t help.

Her heart was thudding in her chest - threatening to crack through her rib cage. She flung the hillariously large rifle off her shoulder in a smooth motion. This was the point she had to be careful. The point that had cost so... so many other people their everything.

With a deep, steady breath: she took aim and waited. They roved around at all times, of course. Meandering too and fro... not really paying much attention to anything around them other than their migration patterns.

They had been unleashed almost a century ago. We didn’t know it at the time, but they had everything they needed to multiply and reproduce. They knew the game, people thought.... but she knew the truth: they weren’t smart enough for that. Not really. They just operated in patterns and the brains behind it all were people who just wanted to turn a buck.

It was amazing and horrific at the same time. You never knew when one of these powerful people would arrange something through their proxies. They had control over everything in the average life - you could make it around without them, but they could scuttle your attempts at making a successful life. They could tell their creations take people to the wrong place at the right time and ruin their lives... or even take their lives themselves.

That’s where she came in. She was a hunter. And her prey was going to round that corner her any second. She was one of the most successful of her kind. And she knew the powers that operated the system were out for her...

She focused down the sight of her weapon, perched on the road barrier... THERE! There it was! Almost... Almost...

The trigger clicked, and the projectile leaped forward with incredible velocity and hit the oncoming target. The target skidded to a stop as blue-electric arcs danced over its form.

She moved onto the street walkway - needed to be a bit closer so she hopped the barriers she had just shot over. Lacy quickly tapped a series of orders into her arm-comp. This device sent the signal through to the machine she’d just hit with a controller. She relaxed as she hit transmit. Her contract was done.

A person who had been blacklisted by the WMC would now get a ride to her job interview. One person might have a chance to get a better life.

The credits offered helped too - but it wasn’t like she charged all that much.

She allowed herself a moment to day dream: soon she’d have enough to take a ride up the elevator to one of the stations. From there, a few credits slipped to the planetary authority and she’d be able to be free... finally be free...

She sighed deeply as the other car drove off, and she closed her eyes for just a second....

Just then she saw a bright light, heard the squealing of tires...

And then...

The supervisor nodded with satisfaction. Another jacker-cracker down. They owned these people, and soon... very soon... they’d be able to prove it. The plan was almost complete, and then people would do exactly as they were told. And the Waymo Autonomus Corporation - Kares Enterprises Division would be able to offer a new product to their highest paying clients: automonous cleaning and disposal services, powered by Waymo. So what if the control collars fried brains? Not like these people needed them... anymore.

—- end —-