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Google's Waymo pulls plug on Firefly self-driving car

Published 15 June 2017

Google’s self-driving subsidiary Waymo is retiring its prototype autonomous vehicle, dubbed Firefly.

The Firefly vehicle, which has no wheel and pedals, was developed as a platform to experiment and learn, but not for mass production.

Firefly made it possible for Google to rack up millions of self-driving miles.

Waymo lead industrial designer YooJung Ahn and lead systems engineer Jaime Waydo said: “On October 20, 2015, we completed the world’s first truly self-driving trip when Steve Mahan cruised through an Austin neighborhood in a Firefly with no controls or human backup?—?a feat that was only possible because of the capabilities and redundant systems we developed in this prototype.

“In preparing for that Austin ride, 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.”

Presently, the company has deployed a fleet of 600 Chrysler Pacifica minivans, which have been outfitted with custom-built radar and vision systems and is supported by a new artificial intelligence platform. It also has 24 Lexus RX 450h crossovers, with permits to test in the state of California.

Waymo said by deploying mass produced vehicles, it becomes easier to bring the self-driving technology closer to people at a faster pace. Also, Firefly vehicles were limited to a speed of 25mph and the Chrysler Pacifica minivans can reach full speed.

Recently, Waymo has also partnered with ride-hailing company Lyft, where the self-driving technology could help Lyft to expand its passenger rides network.


Image: Google’s Way mo to retire Firefly, its first self-driving vehicle. Photo: Courtesy of Waymo.