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June 13, 2017

Waymo bids its self-driving bubble cars farewell

by John_A

Say goodbye to Waymo’s quirky bubble-shaped autonomous cars. Google’s former self-driving car division is retiring its fleet of “Fireflies” — also known as “koalas” and “gumdrops,” among many other nicknames — to focus on integrating its technology into more traditional vehicles. It particularly aims to give more people access to its self-driving technology through a fleet of 600 Chrysler Pacifica minivans, which the team has equipped with its latest custom-built radar, LiDAR and vision systems. The minivans also come with Waymo’s newest AI platform that can see farther and more clearly. Plus, they run like normal vehicles do, unlike the Fireflies which are limited to 25mph.

This move doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. A report from late 2016 said Alphabet’s Larry Page scrapped Waymo’s plans to manufacture bubble-shaped driverless vehicles to make the company’s strategy more feasible. It said Page’s new plan involves collaborating with automakers to design and make cars with no pedals and steering wheels that use Google’s self-driving tech. Shortly after that report came out, Waymo introduced its heavily modified Chrysler Pacificas with altered electrical, powertrain, chassis and structural system to accommodate the extra weight brought by the company’s equipment.

While Waymo will no longer use its Fireflies for future tests, you can still catch a glimpse of the cute bubble cars in various locations. This August, they’ll be on display at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix before making their way to the The Thinkery in Austin, Texas this October. You’ll also find a Firefly at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California and another at the Design Museum in London.

Source: Waymo

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