And we say good riddance.
Back in 2013 Google's self-driving car division, now called Waymo, began testing a prototype that some described as cute. Clearly they’re not car people. Google called this pod-like thing “Firefly” and it lacked many essentials real cars have, like a steering wheel and pedals. But now it’s officially being retired, according to a Medium blog post by Waymo. The reason being is that Waymo is now focused on the totally normal looking Chrysler Pacifica minivans that are part of its self-driving test fleet.
There are currently 100 of those vans fitted with self-driving hardware and software, and Waymo has ordered an additional 500 vans for its early rider program in Arizona. Basically, Google realized that building cars is really, really hard. A prototype is one thing, but a large fleet is something else entirely. Therefore, it’s best to team up with an experienced mainstream automaker. “By focusing on mass-produced vehicles like the Pacifica minivan, we’ll be able to bring fully self-driving technology to more people, more quickly,” Waymo stated in the post.
“The Pacifica minivans are equipped with our latest generation of custom-built radar, LiDAR and vision systems and an all-new AI compute platform, so they can see further and sharper. They can also reach full speed (where the Firefly is limited to 25mph), and the interior is equipped with creature comforts that passengers expect in their vehicles today.” Like Apple, Waymo is doing what it does best, being a technology company. Leave the auto manufacturing to the experts.