After four years, Google has decided to retire its pod-like driverless cars in favour of more conventional vehicles.
iNews.co.uk reports that the miniature cars, known by the team that built them as Fireflies, were built to carry two passengers at a maximum speed of 25mph, and became a familiar sight on the roads of Mountain View, California near Google’s headquarters.
But, as the report says, they were only ever experimental models for the company to test the company’s now sophisticated self-driving technologies, and Waymo, the spin-off company formed from Google’s driverless project, has decided to retire them in favour of mass-produced minivans.
“The Firefly was powered by a computer, and helped the team of engineers to work out the most efficient placement of its LiDAR sensor, the dome on top of the vehicle’s roof which helped it to navigate via lasers and in conjunction with cameras,” says the report. “Google began its self-driving car project back in 2009, which helped to pave the way for Tesla, Ford, Uber and other companies to develop their own projects. By designing and building Firefly themselves, [Google’s driverless car subsidiary] Waymo was also able to work out how best to integrate the computer into its body and the kind of controls a passenger would need in a car capable of driving itself.”
The report quotes Waymo as saying, “Firefly taught us exactly what it takes to go truly self-driving. Now that we’ve moved to our next phase?—?letting members of the public use our self-driving cars in their daily lives?—?we’re ready to retire our fleet of Fireflies and focus on integrating our latest technology into vehicles like our new self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan.”