Waymo retiring Firefly self-driving car
The two-seater vehicles, which have no pedals or steering wheels, travelled millions of miles in road tests.
The self-driving bubble car developed by Waymo, part of Google’s parent firm Alphabet, is to be phased out, the firm has announced.
Waymo leaders write that time has come to “retire our fleet of Fireflies” — their name for the tiny cars — and focus instead of integrating self-driving technology into other vehicles, like the Chrysler Pacifica minivans Waymo put on the road earlier this year.
In its previous incarnation as the Google self-driving car project, Waymo started out using a collection of Toyota Prius and Lexus RX 450h hybrids, with no official involvement from Toyota. It introduced the “Firefly” in 2013, and the cars have been the face of Google/Waymo autonomous driving ever since.
“By focusing on mass-produced vehicles like the Pacifica minivan, we’ll be able to bring fully self-driving technology to more people, more quickly,” the Waymo leaders write. They also say that focusing on mass-produced vehicles opens up more opportunities for testing, since the Fireflies were limited to a top speed of 25 miles per hour.
Even as Google can be competing with quite a few other companies at this factor to sell self-using tech, it has a head begin on testing; and ultimately, selling the technology goes to be plenty less complicated than figuring out the way to mass produce and marketplace its very own self-drive car.
While they may not be as cute, the Chrysler minivans are more relevant to Waymo’s long-term goals. Waymo hopes to commercialize its autonomous driving tech, but to do that, it will need to partner with a company that is actually willing to manufacture cars—which is still a complex and cash-intensive business.
The pair added that using an existing car would enable the firm to bring self-driving technology “to more people, more quickly”.
Fireflies will be displayed in Austin and Mountain View in the US and at the Design Museum in London.