Driverless cars: Waymo eyes Europe for launch of robot taxi services

With nearly seven million test miles on the clock and more than 60,000 new hybrid minivans coming to join its existing fleet, Waymo is now looking to take its self-driving cars beyond the U.S.

John Krafcik, chief executive of the Alphabet-owned company, said this week that Waymo is keen to explore the European market with a view to launching a robot taxi service similar to one it’s already testing in Arizona, Reuters reported.

Krafcik was speaking at the Automotive News Europe Congress in Turin, Italy, where a few days earlier Waymo gave visitors a demonstration of its driverless-car technology.

Opportunity knocks

“There is an opportunity for us at Waymo to experiment here in Europe,” Krafcik told Reuters, adding that besides a robot taxi service, his company could experiment with “other products,” though he declined to elaborate on what form they might take.

The boss said the company would likely enter a partnership with a local player, but didn’t offer clues about how any such plan is progressing.

Waymo officials have reportedly been spending time in Europe to learn more about how local regulations would affect on-road testing as well as taxi services using autonomous vehicles. With many European cities featuring streets that are often more winding, narrower, and busier than those in the U.S., driverless-car software will certainly have to be finely tuned to deal with the more challenging conditions.

Seven million miles

Born out of Google’s driverless-car program, which launched in 2009, Waymo has been making great strides with its vehicle-based driverless technology. This week it revealed its autonomous vehicles are about to reach seven million miles of testing on public roads in the U.S., an increase of two million miles since February. Much of the driving has been done by 600 autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans, and the company recently ordered another 62,000 — yes, 62,000 — to add to its fleet.

While most of its competitors are testing self-driving cars with safety drivers, Waymo has been testing fully driverless vehicles in Arizona since last year, even carrying passengers as part of a robot taxi service that it hopes to launch in the next 12 months.

“The world keeps saying that self-driving cars are coming soon,” Krafcik said this week. “We are doing this, today, in Phoenix, driving without humans in the front row. Sometimes I feel like the world hasn’t quite reckoned with that thought.”


Tesla will have ‘autonomous robotaxis’ in 2020, Elon Musk says

Tesla will deploy self-driving cars in a "robotaxi" service in 2020, CEO Elon Musk said at the automaker's Autonomy Investor Day. Musk has promised autonomous Tesla electric cars before, but will he finally deliver this time?

Apple’s interest in self-driving cars reported to be revving up

A new report suggests that Apple is in talks with a number of suppliers to purchase lidar sensors, an essential tool for self-driving cars. The news is once again spiking rumors that Apple might be building vehicles.
Emerging Tech

U.S., U.K. embrace autonomous robot spy subs that can stay at sea for months

Unmanned, autonomous robot spy submarines that are able to stay at sea for months at a time may be coming to both the United States and its ally across the pond, the U.K. Here's what we know so far.

Toyota leads $1 billion investment in Uber’s self-driving tech division

In a move that has been a long time coming, Uber filed its S-1 documents, which sets the stage for the company to finally go public with an initial public offering. The company could be valued at more than $100 billion.

Tesla Model S and Model X charge faster and go farther with the same battery

An all-new drivetrain for the Tesla Model S and X enables the EVs to travel farther per charge than the previous design. Tesla Model S Long Range sedans have a 370-mile range and Model X Long Range SUVs can travel 325 miles per EPA cycle.

2019 Ford F-150 RTR gets a light dose of off-road, style upgrades

Vaughn Gittin Jr.'s RTR Vehicles is turning its attention to the 2019 Ford F-150 pickup truck. RTR gave Ford's bestseller new suspension components and tires, as well as more extroverted exterior styling.

Electric truck maker Rivian scores $500 million investment from Ford

Alongside Amazon, Rivian can now count Ford as one of its backers. The Blue Oval will invest $500 million in Rivian, and will use the company's "skateboard" chassis as the basis for a future electric vehicle.

The best diagnostic adapters monitor your car so you don't have to

Sometimes called dongles, the best car adapters will tell you what's wrong under the hood while help you keep tabs on your family and routine maintenance.
Emerging Tech

Japanese taxis will use facial recognition to target you with ads as you ride

A Japanese startup is trying to reinvent in-taxi advertising by using facial recognition technology to identify the key characteristics of riders and then presenting them with appropriate ads.

Nvidia agrees with Tesla’s take on self-driving cars, but corrects specifics

Nvidia vice president Rob Csongor agreed with broad statements by Elon Musk at Tesla's April 22 Autonomy Investor Day. Csongor then took exception to what he termed were inaccuracies about Nvidia's self-driving car chip.

Stop backing into your neighbor's car with the best backup cameras

The right backup camera will allow you to better avoid vehicles and other obstacles without taking your eyes off the road, rendering "sorry, I hit your car!" notes a thing of the past. Here are our current favorites.

Waze vs. Google Maps: Which map app should you be using?

Waze and Google Maps are two of the most popular apps for those looking for turn-by-turn navigation, yet there are some notable differences to point out. Here, we examine both to decide which offers the best feature set.

Tesla posts $702M Q1 loss as deliveries fall sharply; Musk promises turnaround

Tesla lost $702 million during the first quarter of 2019 as deliveries fell sharply, and demand for the Model X and the Model S flattened. The company predicts it will again lose money in the second quarter.

Ambitious but not rubbish: The best Top Gear episodes

Since its relaunch in 2002, Top Gear has become required viewing for any serious gearhead. The great moments from this show may seem too numerous to count, but we've managed to pick some of the highlights from the first 26 seasons.