Google Retires Its Mini Self-Driving Vehicle

Google car

Waymo, the Alphabet company that began as Google's self-driving auto research program, said in a blog post today that it's retiring its prototype autonomous vehicle, nicknamed Firefly. In a blog post published today, Waymo's lead designer and lead engineer outlined why the team was retiring the Firefly in favor of the Chrysler Pacifica.

Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Waymo, formerly Google's self-driving auto unit, had deployed its fully self-driving cars on the public roads back in 2015.

Many in Silicon Valley have grown accustomed to seeing the little rounded vehicles poking around the streets, top speed 25 miles per hour, looking like they drove straight out of a Pac-Man video game. Waymo has opted for the alternative for third party automobile partnerships in order to capitalize on the ongoing capabilities.

However, it is saddening to see one of the most aesthetic self driving iterations retire from the public eye, thus killing off the company's automotive ambitions. At the present, the firm is stuck in a LiDAR patent infringement case against Uber that has also made significant moves in the self driving department. The Firefly was a pod-like vehicle with two-seats, no pedals or steering wheel. Since then, Waymo has ordered 500 more Pacificas for an "early rider" program, offering free rides to residents of Phoenix, Arizona who want to check out self-driving technology instead of hailing a conventional cab or ride-share (each Waymo minivan has a human driver behind the wheel in case of malfunctions). It introduced the "Firefly" in 2013, and the cars have been the face of Google/Waymo autonomous driving ever since. The interior would be designed entirely for comfort as opposed to driving.

While they may not be as cute, the Chrysler minivans are more relevant to Waymo's long-term goals.

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