It appears that these efforts are beginning to annoy the locals, who have come to hate the rolling roadblocks:
Alphabet’s Waymo unit is a worldwide leader in autonomous vehicle development for suburban environments. It has said it would launch a driverless robo-taxi service to suburban Phoenix residents this year. Yet its self-driving minivan prototypes have trouble crossing the T-intersection closest to the company’s Phoenix-area headquarters here.
Two weeks ago, Lisa Hargis, an administrative assistant who works at an office a stone’s throw from Waymo’s vehicle depot, said she nearly hit a Waymo Chrysler Pacifica minivan because it stopped abruptly while making a right turn at the intersection. “Go!” she shouted angrily, she said, after getting stuck in the intersection midway through her left turn. Cars that had been driving behind the Waymo van also stopped. “I was going to murder someone,” she said.
This is literally the most self-driving car corner in the world. It’s right next ti Waymo HQ, and it still does not work.*
The hesitation at the intersection is one of many flaws evident in Waymo’s technology, say five people with direct knowledge of the issues in Phoenix. More than a dozen local residents who frequently encounter one of the hundreds of Waymo test vehicles circulating in the area complained about sudden moves or stops. The company’s safety drivers—individuals who sit in the driver’s seat—regularly have to take control of the wheel to avoid a collision or potentially unsafe situation, the people said.
Suburban Phoenix, with its generally flat, straight roads and relatively light traffic, has been an ideal test location for Waymo and other developers of autonomous vehicles. Apple, which is working on its own self-driving car, recently set up a facility for testing prototype vehicles near Surprise, Ariz., west of Phoenix, according to a person briefed about the matter, a move that hasn’t previously been reported. (An Apple spokesman didn’t comment.) Uber was conducting tests in the area until it halted activity after a deadly collision in March.
But Waymo’s experience in the Phoenix surroundings is the latest evidence that it could be many years before fully autonomous vehicles replace human drivers, even in relatively easy driving environments, at any meaningful scale. 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.
This is why self-driving car “experts” are suggesting things like basically banning pedestrians.
This stuff is not ready for prime time.