Details of Waymo’s driverless taxi service were revealed in the company’s recent application to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). As could be seen in the filings, Waymo is requesting for a permit to operate 52 autonomous, fully-driverless vehicles in California, with the company deploying its Chrysler Pacifica minivans for the proposed CA testing.
The details of Waymo’s application for its driverless taxi service were retrieved by news website IEEE Spectrum through the use of public record laws. According to the company’s filings, the driverless taxis will be deployed in an intensively-mapped, geofenced area of roughly 50 square miles. As noted in Waymo’s DMV application, passengers would be prohibited to select an area outside the company’s pre-selected geo-zone.
Waymo noted in its DMV filings that its Chrysler Pacifica self-driving minivans are capable of handling most roads and parking spaces. The vehicles are also capable of traveling up to 65 miles per hour at their current state. Additionally, Waymo further stated that the driverless taxis are capable of handling fog and light rain, as well as night-time driving.
In the event that Waymo’s driverless taxis encounter dangerous road conditions — such as heavy rain, flooded roads, off-road terrain, and snowy or icy streets — the vehicles are programmed to look for a “minimal risk condition.” This, at times, involves the vehicle stopping on the side of the road.
If a Waymo driverless taxi detects a failure, an impact on the car’s exterior, or an airbag deployment, the vehicle is programmed to halt its operations. Quite interestingly, Waymo’s DMV application noted that there wouldn’t be any way for passengers to override the controls of the vehicle.
“For safety reasons, and because Waymo’s vehicles already handle the entire dynamic driving task at SAE Level 4, Waymo neither has such functionality today, nor do we intend to moving forward,” Waymo noted in its DMV application.
As a contingency, Waymo is employing two teams that are tasked to monitor the driverless taxi fleet while the vehicles are operating. One team, called Fleet Response Specialists, will be monitoring the status of the self-driving cars in real-time using virtual tools. The other, called Rider Support, functions as a customer support center, communicating with passengers of the driverless taxis. So far, Waymo noted in its DMV application that it had trained 70 Fleet Response Specialists and 23 Rider Support members.
Waymo also has specific systems designed to react to law enforcement. According to the company’s DMV filings, the autonomous taxis are programmed to pull over once it detects a police car’s flashing lights behind it. When this happens, the Waymo driverless taxi will unlock its doors and roll down a window to enable an officer to communicate directly with the Rider Support team. Waymo’s DMV application also includes a “law enforcement interaction protocol,” which provides information for paramedics, police officers, and firefighters.
Last March, Waymo released the latest vehicle for its self-driving fleet — the Jaguar I-PACE. According to CEO John Krafcik, Waymo expects to start testing the I-PACE later this year. Waymo hopes to eventually deploy as many as 20,000 autonomous Jaguar I-PACE taxis within two years of the electric car’s production.
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