The Fuse

This Week in AVs: Waymo Launches App; California to Allow Light-Duty Self-Driving Truck Testing; and More

by Kristen Hernandez | April 22, 2019

Waymo launches robotaxi app on Google Play

Waymo’s expansion to new customers will allow more members of the public to enjoy access to autonomous vehicle technology, potentially paving the way for broader use and increased consumer acceptance.

Waymo will soon allow more Phoenix residents to access its robotaxi service. The company has been operating the service, called Waymo One, in the Phoenix area since December, but it has thus far only been available to members of the early rider program. Through a new Android app, additional customers will be able to access the service, though they will have to wait to be accepted off of a waiting list. These new customers will first join the early rider program, where they are subject to a non-disclosure agreement and cannot bring guests, but will eventually move to the public service, which lifts these restrictions. Waymo’s expansion to new customers will allow more members of the public to enjoy access to autonomous vehicle technology, potentially paving the way for broader use and increased consumer acceptance.

California to allow testing of light-duty self-driving trucks
The California Department of Motor Vehicles has announced a proposed rule outlining a permitting process for testing Class 1 and 2 driverless trucks. This would allow for minivans, pickup trucks, utility vans, and step vans to be tested on California roads, but excludes medium- and heavy-duty trucks such as semi-trucks and buses. While many companies who test Class 1 and 2 trucks already have permits through California’s existing autonomous vehicle testing program, this rule would offer clarity around the commercial operation of such vehicles on public roads. However, some worry that this proposed rule may be delaying more impactful steps such as a permitting process for the testing of autonomous medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Uber’s S-1 filing reveals details about autonomous vehicle operations

The documents show that Uber Advanced Technologies Group’s 250 autonomous test vehicles have driven “millions of miles” transporting “tens of thousands” of passengers and that the group spent $457 million on R&D in 2018.

Uber’s S-1, filed with the SEC last week in preparation for the company’s upcoming IPO, has revealed additional details about their autonomous vehicle arm. The documents show that Uber Advanced Technologies Group’s (ATG) 250 autonomous test vehicles have driven “millions of miles” transporting “tens of thousands” of passengers and that the group spent $457 million on R&D in 2018. In early deployments of the technology, ATG expects a long period with a mix of autonomous and human-driven vehicles, particularly in complex conditions and during demand-intensive events. This is in line with chief scientist Raquel Urtasun’s comments last week. While this glimpse into Uber’s autonomous vehicle operations shows that the company has measured expectations for initial deployment, they still predict that autonomous vehicles will help them lower costs, thus expanding access to mobility and delivery services.

Audi unveils AI:ME self-driving EV concept at Shanghai
Audi has introduced an electric, self-driving concept car at Auto Shanghai 2019. The Audi AI:ME, capable of driving autonomously at SAE Level 4, is designed largely for city use. It is meant to operate mostly between about 12 and 43 miles per hour and to go long periods of time without charging. In pursuit of this goal, the vehicle’s brake energy recuperation and relatively low weight allow it to have very low energy consumption. If this vehicle were produced and deployed at scale, it could significantly reduce energy consumption from the transportation sector.

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