SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Alphabet’s self-driving technology unit Waymo showed off some of its safety features to Bay Area law enforcement agencies Wednesday as the company expands its driverless car testing area in the South Bay.
For years, Google, and now Waymo, have been testing the self-driving cars all over Mountain View. The company even built a 90-plus acre test facility – a fake city, if you will – in the Central Valley town of Atwater.
Finally, after 10,000,000 miles, the company is gearing up to expand into Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Los Altos Hills.
So Wednesday, Waymo employees were making the rounds visiting various law enforcement agencies to show them a presentation titled, “Waymo Fully Self-Driving Chrysler Pacifica.”
It is the mother of all swagger wagons. The modified minivans feature sensors in the front, back, side and top; big touch-screen display in the center console; a prominent warning sticker right on the steering wheel that reads ” Do not touch the steering wheel or pedals – vehicle will pull over;” and some sensitive, proprietary equipment in the trunk that Waymo asked us not to show.
The presentation featured diagrams on how to shut down the self-driving feature, where to cut the vehicle open if someone was trapped inside, and – of course – what happens when an officer tries to pull one over.
The California Highway Patrol hopes other companies follow Google’s example.
“Any company who’s developing an autonomous vehicle, I would highly encourage them to come forward and help us help them,” said CHP San Jose Sgt. Daniel Hill. “We need to work together. The future is a partnership between law enforcement, the public, and companies developing autonomous vehicles. Everybody working together is the way we can keep the roadway safe.”
Waymo did not demo the van Wednesday, because the CHP parking lot and surrounding streets have not yet been mapped out, a process that can take hours.
But if you’ve come across the vehicles in Mountain View, you know they are very cautious and drive by the book.
“Just take caution around them. Understand that, just like a new driver, they’re learning how to navigate the roadway safely. You can think of them as student drivers, per se, because from what I understand, they’re all learning every mile they drive,” said Hill. “So I would just be a little bit more cautious, and a little bit more careful and don’t be too frustrated if they’re driving a little slower, because they’re trying to do it safely.”