Waymo Dumps Autopilot After Test Drivers Fell Asleep

Technology

Turns out it's best to let the computer handle all aspects of driving.

Alphabet’s (Google’s parent company) self-driving division, Waymo, stopped developing features specifically for drivers to take control of the vehicle in dangerous situations because its own test drivers fell asleep at the wheel. According to a report from Reuters, Waymo’s CEO John Krafcik said that the company realized about five years ago cars would need to have fully autonomous driving capabilities instead of autopilot. The plan was to develop technology that would allow for cars to drive autonomously on both highways and in cities.

But the reason why autopilot was deemed problematic was when company test drivers failed to respond to the sound of a system alert. Basically, that was the system telling the driver they needed take control due to a tricky situation. But if the driver was dozing off then they’d be unable to respond in time to the system’s safety demands. “What we found was pretty scary,” Krafcik said. “It’s hard to take over because they have lost contextual awareness.” Knowing that, Waymo determined that having a system that alerted drivers to jump into action when an alarm went off was unsafe. They even have on-board videos proving that, which were shown for the first time last week.

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The solution was to focus solely on new technology that didn’t require any sort of human interaction. “Our technology takes care of all of the driving, allowing passengers to stay passengers,” Krafcik summarized. In the meantime, Waymo is still continuing to test those Chrysler Pacificas fitted with self-driving technology in California and a few other states where permission has been received. No timetable was given as to when they'll be production ready, but, in all honesty, the technology is not that far off.

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