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Home News Google spinoff Waymo retires ‘bubble cars’ to focus on mass production

Google spinoff Waymo retires ‘bubble cars’ to focus on mass production

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Google’s iconic “bubble cars” are going bye-bye.

Many in Silicon Valley have grown accustomed to seeing the little rounded vehicles poking around the streets, top speed 25 miles per hour, looking like they drove straight out of a Pac-Man video game.

For Google, which spun off the self-driving unit into its own company Waymo, these “Firefly” cars have been a key component in the development of autonomous vehicles. They hit public roads in 2015.

“From the beginning, Firefly was intended as a platform to experiment and learn, not for mass production,” Waymo said in a Medium post.

“By designing and building a truly self-driving vehicle from scratch, we were able to crack some of the earliest self-driving puzzles  — where to place the sensors, how to integrate the computer, what controls passengers need in a car that drives itself.

“In answering these questions, Firefly defined some of our most recognizable features, like the dome on top of every Waymo car.”

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But now the little cars are going into retirement while Waymo focuses on mass-produced vehicles such as its fleet of 600 autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

“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,” Waymo said.

The minivans have latest-generation sensors and an “all-new” artificial-intelligence computing platform “so they can see even further and sharper,” according to Waymo.

“They can also reach full speed … and the interior is equipped with creature comforts that passengers expect in their vehicles today.”

Photo: Waymo’s Firefly self-driving car (courtesy of Waymo)

Tags: autonomous vehicles, bubble car, Firefly, Google, self-driving cars, Waymo

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