Waymo starts giving public rides in self-driving vans

Waymo is starting to let the public take rides in its self-driving vans. This is the first commercial self-driving ride service to launch publicly, according to Waymo. For now, Waymo’s definition of “the public” is a couple hundred pre-selected individuals in the Phoenix area. But Waymo is calling this is a small but important first … Continue reading “Waymo starts giving public rides in self-driving vans”

Waymo is starting to let the public take rides in its self-driving vans. This is the first commercial self-driving ride service to launch publicly, according to Waymo.

For now, Waymo’s definition of “the public” is a couple hundred pre-selected individuals in the Phoenix area. But Waymo is calling this is a small but important first step to launching an actual driverless ride sharing service.These initial users were all part of Waymo’s “Early Rider” test program, so they’ve ridden in these vans before. The big difference is now they’ll be allowed to invite others to ride with them — as many as four people can fit in the van — and they’ll be able to speak publicly about the experience, including posting about it on social media.

    These customers will not be stepping into vans with empty driver’s seats, though. While Waymo has given totally driverless rides to people as part of the private “Early Rider” program, for these more public rides, a Waymo employee will be in the driver’s seat ready to take over if needed.Waymo is offering paid rides in its autonomous vans but only to a select group of customers for now.Waymo is a subsidiary of Alphabet (GOOGL), Google’s parent company. Read MoreThe service, called Waymo One, will operate 24 hours a day giving rides in the Phoenix area. Over time, the service will expand to cover more cities and be available to more riders than just the test group, Waymo CEO John Krafcik wrote in a blog post.Planes may hold the secret to safe self-driving carsRides will be requested through an Uber-like smartphone app Waymo has created that will allow users to select pickup and drop-off locations and see a price estimate for the ride. The pricing strategy is part of what Waymo is working out with these more public rides. The pricing and software has been under development in the more secretive “Early Rider” program but will undergo more development in the public Waymo One program, a Waymo spokesperson said.Up until now, much of the research into autonomous driving has been around figuring out technical issues, said Karl Brauer, publisher of Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader. Waymo is taking another step in working through some of the other challenges, such as creating a service that’s easy to use and meets riders’ needs.Riders will use an Uber-like smartphone app.

      “Waymo’s early rider program is allowing the company to identify these issues, and its new Waymo One service will expand the company’s feedback system into a real-world business application,” Brauer said. “In the race for the self-driving car, this information is invaluable.”A company called May Mobility has been offering driverless rides to the general public in select Midwestern cities, but those rides have been on regular fixed routes in vehicles that travel no more than 25 miles an hour.

Porsche just remade the 911

Few brands are as purely built around a single product as Porsche is around the 911.

All other Porsche models — even high-riding SUVs, by far the best selling Porsches — have body lines suggesting their relationship to the iconic sports car at the heart of the brand. The 911 wasn’t the first Porsche. It was introduced in 1963 as a more expensive, higher-performing alternative to the Porsche 356. It was natural to think that, over time, the 911 would be supplanted by other, even better cars. Certainly, many other Porsche sports cars have come and gone in the decades since. But no model ever resonated with drivers quite as well as the 911.

    Unlike most sports cars, 911s always had a modicum of practicality thanks to small backseats suitable for children. And they’ve all had their engines mounted far in the back giving them a distinct rearward weight balance. Given its importance to Porsche, and in the universe of cars as a whole, the introduction of a completely new and redesigned 911 is a major event. It’s only happened seven times in the past 55 years. This time, for the 2020 Porsche 911, the unveiling was held near Los Angeles. The United States is the largest market in the world for the 911, so it made sense for the German brand to show off its new centerpiece here.Read MorePorsche unveiled the eighth generation of the 911 at an event near Los Angeles.The introduction was preceded by a parade of beautifully preserved 911s from prior generations. As expected, when the new 911 finally rolled onto the roadway between two bleachers full of journalists from around the world, it did not look radically different from the others that had just driven past.

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      Audi shows off its electric future in the E-Tron GT concept 01:03″What we did, basically, is we cleaned the surfaces and straightened the lines,” said Porsche’s head of design Michael Mauer. It’s a little wider, for one thing, by about 1.7 inches. This new version has big 20-inch diameter wheels in the front and even bigger 21-inch wheels in the back. It’s also more powerful, with the 911 Carrera S producing about 443 horsepower compared to 420 in today’s version. It will go from zero to 60 miles an hour in about 3.5 seconds, almost a half-second quicker than the current version, according to Porsche.The new Porsche 911’s interior has a cleaner look thanks to touch screens replacing many of the knobs and switches.The door handles lay flush against the car’s sheet metal, extending when needed, like the handles on a Tesla Model S. One of the most distinctive differences, in terms of the exterior, is the larger, more pronounced air vent in the back over the engine. Nestled among the black slats, a center brake light lights up as two short vertical bars.

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        Jeep unveils its first truck in 26 years 01:01It also has a lot more technology, including a nearly 11-inch touch screen that replaces some of the switches and knobs in the current generation 911. A new “Wet Mode” relies on sensors inside the wheel wells to detect water on the road. If the road surface is wet, the driver is given the option to turn on “Wet Mode” which will help control the car in those slick conditions. “Night Vision Assist,” with a thermal imaging camera, will be available as an option.

          One thing the new 911 will not have, at least at the outset, is a manual transmission. The 911 will be available initially with a “dual-clutch” eight-speed automatic, with a manual transmission option to be introduced later. The Carrera S is the least expensive version available for ordering right away. Prices for that version start at about $113,000. Standard Carrera models will come later, a Porsche spokesman said. The first new 911 is expected to be delivered in the United States in summer 2019.