It doesn't deal with crowds well, either.
Despite what you may hear about a fully-autonomous motoring future being just a few years away, the hype around the subject tends to obscure the fact that current technology is simply not up to the task yet. Take the Waymo One taxi service that was launched in December last year. This is the next step in Waymo’s autonomous driving program and is currently limited to a select few who were already part of the 400-person Early Riders club which debuted earlier last year.
Despite there being no NDA imposed on the Waymo One participants, detailed information about the service is somewhat hard to come by.
One person, however, has been documenting his experiences with the autonomous taxi service and The Verge got in touch with him to get his take on it. Shawn Metzis a 30-year-old HR manager who lives in one of the four suburbs in Phoenix where the Waymo One taxi service is currently operating. He and his wife use Waymo up to eight times per week and overall he has been impressed with how the Chrysler Pacifica minivans operate.
Each vehicle still has a driver behind the wheel just in case, and Shawn has noticed that human intervention is sometimes required, like when the car got stuck trying to navigate its way around a crowded Costco parking lot or when rain seemed to require the car to be driven manually during the trip.
Aside from that and an apparent reluctance to take advantage of gaps in the traffic when making unprotected left turns, he has found the service to be rather good. While the self-driving technology that Waymo uses is clearly very advanced, these small hiccups also highlight how much more work still needs to be done before we will be at a stage where such a service can be rolled out across the country.
Once the human element is totally removed, the onboard systems will need to be able to deal with any eventuality. That scenario looks to be a long way off and Shawn for one is in no hurry, he would rather the kinks be ironed out first.