Malcolm Gladwell Isn't Afraid of an Autonomous Vehicle Future
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Malcolm Gladwell is a journalist and host of the podcast Revisionist History. This podcast typically reexamines historical events and attempts to answer the question “did we get it right the first time?”
Occasionally, Gladwell does current interest stories or looks to the future. In one of his recent podcasts, he took a ride in one of Waymo’s autonomous vehicles. News about autonomous vehicles, or AVs, have been dominating the auto industry as the technology advances. Autonomous vehicles can help reduce road congestion.
Gladwell gave Waymo a glowing review
Malcolm Gladwell and his producer, Jacob Smith, recently had the opportunity to ride in an AV, as reported by Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving (LTAD). The Waymo minivan was operating in Chandler, AZ.
Gladwell said that he couldn’t believe what a “calming, measuring, and completely zen experience” they were having on the ride. He also called the minivan the coolest car ever made.
So what made it so amazing?
Gladwell says that the Waymo minivan drove smoothly and carefully, making room for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other drivers on the busy Chandler streets. The minivan is equipped with radar, cameras, and lidar that gives the minivan a 360-degree view at all times.
Lidar is an acronym for “light detection and ranging.” It uses pulses of laser light to measure the distance between objects. The minivan can detect distances between itself and other objects, and see how fast those objects are moving.
Gladwell said that the ride felt safe and kept a “respectful distance” from other cars and pedestrians. He added that he has spoken with professional cyclists before about trying to share the road with unsafe drivers. The Waymo minivan works so well that cyclists, including Lance Armstrong, are excited by the possibilities.
Gladwell ended his ride by saying that the future is better than what he expected.
Waymo is currently being tested in Arizona
Waymo is a company that focuses almost exclusively on autonomous vehicles. Waymo operates in Arizona and offers ride-sharing and ride-hailing services in the Phoenix metro area. They operate within a 100 square mile area, which is all they’re licensed for so far.
According to TechCrunch, Waymo has been testing in the Chandler area since 2016. Waymo has tested before, in as early as 2009 and in other cities, but the current ride-hailing service is the first time it’s opening to the public.
According to Waymo’s website, you can hail a driverless car right from the app. Rider agents are available for questions and customer support.
Waymo began testing driverless cars in 2009
Waymo, which stands for Way Forward in Mobile, started as Google’s self-driving project in 2009. The goal was to drive more autonomous miles than anyone had ever done, and it’s currently one of the leaders in this race.
By 2015, Waymo had its first autonomous ride on a public road. In Austin, TX, a legally blind man took a ride in the driverless Firefly prototype. In 2017, Waymo became an independent company that focused solely on developing autonomous driving. Waymo has since started testing semi-truck autonomous driving in Texas and New Mexico.
Waymo’s mission is safety first. According to the Waymo website, every year, 1.35 million deaths worldwide are attributed to vehicle crashes. Over 90% of those wrecks in the U.S. were due to driver error.
Waymo believes that by using the most advanced technology available, they can lower these numbers. Their mission is to make it safe and easy for people and products to get from place to place while saving lives that would have been lost in vehicle crashes.
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