NAIAS 2017: Google Spin-Off Waymo Debuts Self-Driving Vehicle


Waymo self-driving car 2017 NAIAS Detroit Auto Show

Google’s newly established Waymo arm finally displayed its first self-driving, production-line test vehicle in the form of a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan. Waymo CEO John Krafcik rolled one on to the stage at the first mobility-services adjunct to the 2017 North American International Auto Show.

At AutoMobili-D, Krafcik said that some of the 100 such vehicles in existence—after a development program by the Google automotive unit and Fiat Chrysler—would begin appearing on public roads in California and Arizona this month. Further testing will add to the 2.5 million in self-driven miles already compiled by Google-designed systems in vehicles around the world.

“This is the first self-driving minivan capable of getting door to door without a person at the wheel,” Krafcik said. “It’s the first product of our first collaboration with an automaker working on a mass-production platform.”

The Pacifica fleet, he said, also is the first group of vehicles to be equipped with Waymo’s “all-new, fully integrated hardware suite” after the company made the decision to oversee manufacture of all of the hardware as well as the software in its self-driving system.

Another highlight of the first day of AutoMobili-D at the Detroit Auto Show was a global reveal by Pixar Studios of the first clip from this summer’s movie debut of Cars 3.

Walt Disney’s Pixar Studios conducted its first research for the first installment of the blockbuster Cars movie franchise at the North American International Auto Show in 2001, and Pixar came back to the event on Sunday to show the clip and talk about the latest sequel.

 Cars 3 will feature competition between a new character, the racer Jackson Storm, a rookie car that seeks to push the franchise’s first and iconic racer character, Lightning McQueen, from the pinnacle of the racing world.

“This is the first look at an exclusive clip from the movie,” John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Studios, said at AutoMobili-D. “No one has seen it outside the walls of Pixar automation studios.”

Jay Shuster and Jay Ward, two creative executives at Pixar, discussed the creation and introduction not only of Jackson Storm, a sleek blue racer in contrast with McQueen’s higher-profile red form, but also of Cruz Ramirez, who has a yellow sports car.

“She’s not a race car but a strong female character who has to meet the race cars at their level,” said Shuster, Pixar production designer. “She’s rooted in American muscle cars and the Euro design aesthetic.”

Pixar executives added that former Ford chief designer J Mays helped them design the two new characters for Cars 3.