The trial of self driving cars in the Phoenix area of Arizona, US suggests that it will be “many years” until the technology is good enough to replace drivers because vehicles still cannot carry out relatively straightforward manoeuvres.
A report in theinformation.com says that Waymo’s experience in the area is the latest evidence that, even in relatively easy driving environments, such a roll out won’t happen at any meaningful scale soon.
It points to responses from drivers who have shared the road with driverless technology, and that its self-driving minivan prototypes have trouble crossing the T-juncion closest to the company’s Phoenix-area headquarters and spoke to a woman who works near the company’s vehicle depot who said she nearly hit a Waymo Chrysler Pacifica minivan because it stopped abruptly while making a right turn at the intersection.
The report says she shouted “Go!”, after getting stuck in the intersection midway through her left turn. Cars that had been driving behind the Waymo van also stopped.
The report adds that while established automakers like Ford and GM, as well as startups like Aurora Innovation and Voyage, also are making incremental advances, the race to make such vehicles an everyday reality hasn’t progressed far beyond the starting line, say people in the field.
The report continues, “In reality, the vast majority of Waymo’s test cars continue to use safety drivers. Typically, the cars that drive without a person at the wheel have been in relatively small residential areas of Chandler, Ariz., where there is little traffic, according to people familiar with the programme. And these vehicles are monitored closely by remote operators that can help the cars when they run into issues.”
The report adds that the testing has been “hyper controlled” and vehicles weren’t permitted to make some unprotected left turns onto fast roads while vans have trouble with many unprotected left turns and with merging into heavy traffic.