Google's Self-Driving Minivans Arrive This Month

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Mike Shedlock via,

It’s been such a hoot reading comments from people telling me that self-driving vehicles are decades away if ever.

The nay-sayers have been proven laughably wrong given Google’s New Self-Driving Minivans Will Hit the Road by the End of January 2017.


Waymo, the self-driving car startup spun-off from Google late last year, will be deploying its fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans onto public roads for the first time later this month, the company announced at the North American International Auto Show today.


The minivans will be hitting the roads in Mountain View, California and Phoenix, Arizona, where the company’s self-driving Lexus SUVs have already driven thousands of miles over the past few years. Also today, Waymo gave the public its first look at the self-driving Pacificas, which have been under wraps since the deal between Google and Fiat Chrysler was first announced back in May 2016.


Waymo says that for the first time, its producing all the technology that enables its cars to completely drive themselves in-house.


This allows the company to exert more control over its self-driving hardware, as well as bring the cost down to ridiculously cheap levels. In a speech in Detroit, Waymo CEO Jeff Krafcik said that by building its own LIDAR sensors, for example, the company was shaving 90 percent off its costs. That means sensors that Google purchased for $75,000 back in 2009 now only cost $7,500 for Waymo to build itself.


Velodyne, a top supplier of LIDAR, retails its sensors for $7,999. But by building its own (or contracting out the manufacturing), Waymo is able to get LIDAR sensors to its exact specifications.


When it spun off Waymo in early December, Google essentially conceded that it was dropping its plan to build its own car, instead refocusing its efforts on making the hardware and software needed to power self-driving. It may be too soon to say that Google is abandoning its plans to build a fleet of driverless cars without steering wheels and pedals. Previously, Krafcik made it clear that Waymo “is not a car company, there’s been some confusion on that point. We’re not in business of making better cars, we’re in the business of making better drivers.”

Waymo Minivan Arrives

Mom Have the Car Pick Me Up

Think about that headline for a second. Also consider seniors who do not like to drive at night and millennials who prefer not to own a car.

All the talk of no need, no desire, etc. gets thrown out the window.

Yes, we still need national regulation. But I expect legislation will be here by 2020-2021 at the latest.

Goodbye Trucking, Taxi, Limo Services as Known Today

I now update my timeline from 2022-2024 to 2020-2022 for millions of long-haul truck jobs to vanish. And that’s a very conservative date.

Taxi service will follow soon after trucking, if not simultaneously.

If you are a long-haul truck driver or airport transport driver, your days are numbered.

Related Articles

  1. January 5, 2017: 3,000 Ride-Sharing Cars Could Replace 13,000 New York City Taxis
  2. August 24, 2016: New Lidar Chips for Self-Driving Vehicles are Smaller Than a Dime, Cost $10 to Manufacture
  3. August 18: 2016: Uber Offers Driverless Rides This Month! What About Snow, Rain, Pigeons, 80-Year-Olds on Roller Skates?

Those who said sensors would drive the cost to $80,000 were more than a bit off. Also see point 2 above.

Those who say cars can’t handle snow, old men on roller skates, or kids veering into traffic need consider point 3 above.

Those who say theft will be easier are not thinking at all.

Those who said such technology was decades away were dead wrong.

Hugely Deflationary

This technology is extremely disruptive and hugely deflationary.

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----_-'s picture
----_- (not verified) Jan 9, 2017 11:56 AM

how quick can you hack them?

Disc Jockey's picture

What an ugly piece of shit!

AllTimeWhys's picture

What could possibly go wrong?

Looney's picture


Can you imagine a bunch of driverless police cars chasing OJ Simpson’s driverless White Bronco?   ;-)


Gazooks's picture

fucking FWD lawsuit



bring it on, Googies

OceanX's picture

Historically, software companies NEVER accept liability.  So, who is going to insure?

Skateboarder's picture

Software can't be wrong, so it's the human drivers' fault (and their insurance premiums that go up).

Mountain View.... middle-aged Chinese/Indian lady, meet driverless car. Oh, and let's see these things get through the clvsterfvck of a traffic mess near the Shoreline exit and nearby areas.

I saw one of these fvckers being prototyped on Hwy 280 by the 101 intersection last year. Gave it the bird.

WernerHeisenberg's picture

Just imagine a driverless ice cream truck pulling up alongside a schoolyard and offering children a ride to a pizza party.  No one to arrest, just a software glitch.  This is the future ... Teach your children not to talk to or get inside driverless vehicles

Ignatius's picture

So it's a race to see if The Donald can create jobs faster than Google and technology can eliminate them.

Pinto Currency's picture

The blue screen of death takes on new meaning.

Automatic Choke's picture

I'm skeptical about these myself.   I do control systems for a living, and have done autonomous vehicle races, and don't see the technology as being capable for quite awhile.  All the comments about weather, dubious vision, software hacks, bugs, and legalities are spot on.


So why is this being pushed so hard?    My guess is that there is vast military interest behind this.   Developing the capabilities with a big commercial push, even if it ultimately fails to field street worthy cars, will yield huge improvements in military autonomous vehicles.   Who is worried about safety when the whole idea is to kill folks?  It is a big win there, especially in convoys with IED dangers on roads.


OfAllElaboratePlans's picture
OfAllElaboratePlans (not verified) Automatic Choke Jan 9, 2017 1:33 PM

Programmed to drive you directly to the FEMA re-education camp (with Meryl Streep movies to entertain you along the way).

larz's picture

Can't be worse than Asian drivers

pitz's picture

My belief is that its hype to prop up otherwise failing companies whose shares should be marked down.  Remember the late 1990s, when adding .com to any company saw it get a valuation bump?  Sun even plasted big billboards around the Silicon Valley, "we put the . in .com" (and basically went out of business only a few short years later along with most of the rest of the hype companies!).  These days, "self-driving cars" is the same.  Not very realistic, highly exxagerated, but some sort of pipe dream that is being sold to investors as a bill of goods.

I agree with you, they really are nowhere near tackling or even approaching the "big" problems with respect to all-weather and night operations.  The instrumentation package is dramatically inadequate.  Systems integration and required redundancy just isn't there to release these on neophyte operators.  The roads themselves will need upgrades, likely to the tunes of trillions of dollars worth.  And then there's the whole problem of maintenance -- the current mechanic workforce doesn't even do a very good job maintaining/repairing relatively primative electronics used today in vehicles -- just who is going to maintain these things.  The government certainly will mandate very frequent inspections as well which will add lots of cost.  And what will the regulators do about 'older' self-driving vehicles with older hardware/firmware -- order them offline?  There is no understanding of the lifecycle.

True Blue's picture

Military and more importantly -commercial trucking. That is why Volvo has quietly partnered into this monstrosity.

ElTerco's picture

Good luck with those Teamsters.

Joe Davola's picture

Complete integration not hokey looking add-on parts.

Guess hokey is in the eye of the beholder.  That big bubble on the top reminds me of the bubble in the trunk of the ABC (American Breeders Congress) cars I used to see in the rural area I grew up in.

OceanX's picture

That's right, it will take the suicide out of Bomber, won't it? ...perfect delivery mechanism for a dirty bomb.

piceridu's picture

We sound a lot like the town/street horseshit shovelers complaining about the advent of the horseless carriage. It's here to stay.

Truck drivers and taxicab drivers are toast. They will have to find work elsewhere...where & what if they don't have other skills?, I have no idea but it's coming.

If anyone has young kids to teens and does not have their collective heads in the sand, they'll advise/push them into hi tech jobs or specialty trades. If you're not designing, building, fixing, software/hardware engineering AI -or in the science/mathamatics/engineering/biotech/medicine fields or if you're not a plummer, electrician, HVAC, refrigeration tech will be road kill in the next 10-20 years.

TuPhat's picture

You are right that there will be road kill caused by driverless vehicles.  It has already been happening but these companies ignore it.  I have only one problem with driverless vehicles, when they crash into my car who do I shoot when I experience road rage.  I guess I'll have to go to the Waymo factory to blame someone.

jimsoong25's picture

I can't imagine the maintenance costs long term of such a system.  What happens when a piece of the system goes out of production?  Any new parts would have to be integrated into the 'system'.  A different camera, a different radar, a replacement computer, ect..  Otherwise, the system wouldn't be calibrated as expected.  How long can such parts be expected to last (especially if made in China).


tmosley's picture

The hardware company.

In this case, Google.

DavidC's picture



FreedomGuy's picture

I want a driverless Crown Vic going into the hood in old Detroit carrying RoboCop.

krispkritter's picture

Waymo accidents?

(Yes, that comment is racist. Get over it.)

mkkby's picture

The geniuses at microsoft still can't make a reliable computer after 30 years of trying.  But I'm sure this will be just fine.

I'll be buying a towing company.  Lots of business dragging these things back to the shop.

ElTerco's picture

I'm glad to see there are still some thinking capitalists in the world anticipating future needs. I was starting to worry.

Tallest Skil's picture

Can these things even drive in rain, snow, or fog yet? Honestly, I've never heard of any progress made in those fields. Never mind that you will have to clean off all the sensors every single time you drive anywhere.

NumNutt's picture

When one of these unmanned peices of crap side swipes my car, who do I exchange insurance information with? Google?

Dave Thomas's picture

When that happens the vehicle pulls over, and an access port opens at waist height with much hissing and steam. You then ahem, IDENTIFY yourself with the access port, and bitcoins are placed into your account.

Although if you look like Jack Elam, it might just burn rubber!

pitz's picture

They can't drive in rain, snow, dust, or at night.  There's very key reasons why they can't.  A vehicle that can't safely navigate (or gracefully decline to navigate) is very dangerous.  Also, the roads themselves will need many billions, if not trillions of reconstruction to properly support self-driving.  All of this to be allegedly funded by a broke nation.

Mish needs to go back to informing us of the economic disaster of Chicago, Illinois.  He does very well at that.  But self-driving cars, good lord, he's just so wrong.

SomebodySpecial's picture

Will they figure out how to get those pesky snow chains off and on by then?

Shitonya Serfs's picture

The company or their products (you)?

44_shooter's picture

Why would you give a shit what a taxi looks like?

Dr. Richard Head's picture

I'm sure the Russians already have to the benefit of Trump...I am sure. 

SgtShaftoe's picture

Probably 24 hours in the hands of some hackers and security researchers and that thing is owned, and so would the rest.   

Kayman's picture

These guys are too smart by half.  I can see the Law of Unintended Consequences coming in to play here.

Trogdor's picture

I see a bunch of industrious youths with a bit of techie knowledge taking these fuckers out with HERF guns ... just to watch them tumble off the road - lol.

pitz's picture

GPS denial isn't too hard either. 

Firestorme's picture

Rio Tinto has been operating driverless ore trucks in their Australia mines since 2015. These trucks operate 24/7, 365 days a year and have had zero incidents.

----_-'s picture
----_- (not verified) Firestorme Jan 9, 2017 12:45 PM

is it actually possible to fill a vehicle with a 1 ton TNT and drive into a crowd of useless people?


le "terrorist" attack incoming

----_-'s picture
----_- (not verified) Firestorme Jan 9, 2017 12:45 PM


TuPhat's picture

Those ore trucks never go on public roads so your comparison is faulty.

ElTerco's picture

Yeah, and my toddler can crawl around in his crib all day without getting hurt, so what is your point?

Oliver Jones's picture

How quickly can some ne'er-do-well spray graffiti on the sensors?

crazzziecanuck's picture

That's not the major problem.

From what I heard is that these autodriving cars have a real problem with rough roads.  And with infrastructure the way it is, how long can a car drive now before it decides the roads are too rough and return control to drivers?

jimsoong25's picture

I controlled aircraft missions for 20 years.  The same argument can be made for Amazon's drone service.  Knowing a great deal about the subject, I just can't see how the product ever rolls out on a big scale.  Imagine a 30 pound package hitting you from 400 feet?  This is the current max payload and expected altitude.  This will be a lawyer's dream come true.  I heard law schools are pumping out half as many drones as ten years ago.  This might be the thing that revives the field. 

Grandad Grumps's picture

I am a little bit disturbed by the pace at which the criminally corrupt parasitic elitists are replacing humans with robots and drones.

It does not appear to be for our benefit. Giving them the options to use robots and drones instead of humans gives them the option to eliminate humans.

Who are "they", ultimately?