Waymo rolls out autonomous vans without human drivers

Published: Tuesday, November 07, 2017 @ 11:03 AM
Updated: Tuesday, November 07, 2017 @ 11:02 AM


            FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017, file photo, a Chrysler Pacifica hybrid outfitted with Waymo's suite of sensors and radar is shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Waymo is testing vehicles on public roads with only an employee in the back seat. The testing started Oct. 19 with an automated Chrysler Pacifica minivan in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, Ariz. It’s a major step toward vehicles driving themselves without human backups on public roads. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017, file photo, a Chrysler Pacifica hybrid outfitted with Waymo's suite of sensors and radar is shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Waymo is testing vehicles on public roads with only an employee in the back seat. The testing started Oct. 19 with an automated Chrysler Pacifica minivan in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, Ariz. It’s a major step toward vehicles driving themselves without human backups on public roads. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

DETROIT (AP) — A self-driving car company created by Google is pulling the human backup driver from behind the steering wheel and will test vehicles on public roads with only an employee in the back seat.

The move by Waymo started Oct. 19 with an automated Chrysler Pacifica minivan in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, Arizona. It's a major step toward vehicles driving themselves without human backups on public roads. The company also said it would launch a ride service to compete with Uber and Lyft.

Waymo, which is owned by Google's parent company Alphabet, is in a race with other companies including Delphi, General Motors, Intel, Uber, Apple and Lyft to bring autonomous vehicles to the public. The companies say the robot cars are safer than human drivers because they don't get drowsy, distracted or drunk.

Google has long stated its intent to skip driver-assist systems and go directly to fully autonomous driving. The Waymo employee in the back seat won't be able to steer the minivan, but like all passengers, will be able to press a button to bring the van safely to a stop if necessary, Waymo said.

Within a "few months," the fully autonomous vans will begin carrying volunteer passengers who are now taking part in a Phoenix-area test that includes use of backup drivers.

The company says the self-driving ride service will be the first application of the technology.

"We want the experience of traveling with Waymo to be routine, so you want to use our driver for your everyday needs," Waymo CEO John Krafcik said prepared remarks announcing the test Tuesday at a conference in Portugal.

The company intends to expand the testing to the entire 600-square-mile (1,500-square-kilometer) Phoenix area and eventually bring the technology to more cities around the world. It's confident that its system can handle all situations on public roads without human intervention, Krafcik said.

"Our system runs thousands of checks on itself every second," he said. "With these checks, our systems can instantly diagnose any problems and pull over or come to a safe stop if needed."

The company also says it has redundant braking, steering, power and computing systems so it never has to rely on a human driver.

Sam Abuelsamid, senior analyst for Navigant Research, says Waymo's tests without a human backup are the first to his knowledge on public roads at normal speeds. The company picked Phoenix because weather conditions are ideal for testing with no snow and little rain, he said, adding that Waymo knows its system isn't ready yet for inclement weather even with camera, radar and laser sensors.

"This demonstrates Waymo's confidence in the ability of these vehicles to function at least in this environment," Abuelsamid said.

He said he expects General Motors and its Cruise Automation autonomous vehicle unit to be the next to announce testing without human backups, followed by auto parts maker Delphi, which recently acquired Massachusetts Institute of Technology self-driving software startup nuTonomy.

Waymo wouldn't say how many vehicles will be in the initial test or exactly how wide an area it will cover. The test will take place in a small area at first, then spread to portions of five cities and 100 square miles (260 square kilometers) in the Phoenix area. Eventually it will go to whole metro area.

The company also wouldn't say how many minivans are taking part in the initial testing. It has a fleet of 100 autonomous vans in Phoenix, with plans to add 500.

Waymo says it has an operations team that can answer questions from the cars' computers, but the cars will make driving decisions.

The company said it has been testing its autonomous systems for the past eight years with more than 5 million miles logged on public roads.

Waymo is hoping to infuse its technology into ride-hailing services such as its current partner, Lyft, and big-rig trucking companies. It also intends to license its automated system to automakers such as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which makes the Pacifica minivan.

Trump tweets he 'took a pass' at being named Time's person of the year

Published: Saturday, November 25, 2017 @ 1:34 AM

President Donald Trump said he
President Donald Trump said he "took a pass" at being named Time's Person of the Year.(NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that he “took a pass” at being named Time magazine’s “Person of the Year,” but the company’s chief content officer said there “wasn’t a speck of truth” in the president’s social media comment, CNN reported.

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“Time Magazine called to say that I was PROBABLY going to be named ‘Man (Person) of the Year’ like last year, but I would have to agree to an interview and a major photo shoot,” Trump tweeted from his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, where he is spending his Thanksgiving holiday. “I said probably is no good and took a pass. Thanks anyway!” Trump wrote. 

The magazine issued a statement that disputed the President’s tweet, CNN reported.

“The President is incorrect about how we choose Person of the Year. TIME does not comment on our choice until publication, which is December 6,” the magazine wrote on its Twitter feed.

Time Inc.’s chief content officer, Alan Murray, tweeted that the President's tweet didn't have “a speck of truth.”

“Amazing. Not a speck of truth here — Trump tweets he 'took a pass' at being named TIME's person of the year,” Murray tweeted.

The President was named Time’s “person of the year” in 2016 after his victory over Hillary Clinton. 

Florida teen in custody at border, is ‘person of interest’ in grandmother’s death

Published: Saturday, November 25, 2017 @ 1:05 AM

Tyler Logan Mott, left, and his grandmother, Kristina June French, had been missing since Monday, officials said.
ActionNewsJax.com
Tyler Logan Mott, left, and his grandmother, Kristina June French, had been missing since Monday, officials said.(ActionNewsJax.com)

A 15-year-old Florida teen is in custody at the U.S.-Canada border, hours after police discovered the body of a woman believed to be his missing grandmother in a shallow grave near the boy’s home, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reported.

Logan Tyler Mott was detained by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection as he tried to enter Canada from Buffalo, New York, sheriff’s deputies said.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office had called Mott “armed and dangerous” and a person of interest in the death of his grandmother, 53-year-old Kristina June French.

Mott was being watched by French at her Neptune Beach home while his father, a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office corrections officer, was on vacation.

Mott’s mother, Carrie Campbell-Mott, said the boy’s father, Eric Mott, was on vacation with his girlfriend. Eric Mott took an Uber home from the airport Wednesday after French never showed up to get them, Campbell-Mott said.

When they got home, the door to their home was open and the house was ransacked, Campbell-Mott said.

Eric Mott's guns were missing from a gun safe, Campbell-Mott said. French’s home in the Mayport area also was ransacked. Her weapons were gone, along with her Dodge Dart.

Mott and French were reported missing after Logan didn't show up to high school on Monday or Tuesday. French also didn't show up for work Monday or Tuesday. A warrant was issued for his arrest Thursday on a charge of auto theft, deputies said.

Originally, deputies believed that Tyler Mott and French may have been traveling together in the Dodge Dart. A missing child alert was issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The teen and the missing vehicle were spotted Thursday on surveillance video in south central Pennsylvania, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reported.

In a statement, Campbell-Mott she was “relieved” that her son was in custody.

“We just ask for everyone to give us time to sort out what happened,” Campbell-Mott said. “That no matter what, Logan is our child and we love him and are standing by him to help in any way. We want to find out what happened to Kristina and we need time for that to happen.”

Campbell-Mott said a sheriff’s detective will fly to meet Logan on Saturday.

In a statement, the May Institute, a nonprofit organization that employed French, said it was “truly devastated” to learn of her death.

“Kristina was a friend and a role model to so many people. … She was a true champion for people with disabilities and advocated tirelessly for human rights.

“We have lost a beautiful person and she will be dearly missed. It is a very sad day.”

David Cassidy's daughter reveals what she learned from father’s last words

Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 11:27 PM

Katie Cassidy  (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
Michael Tran/FilmMagic
Katie Cassidy (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)(Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

Days after “The Partridge Family’s” David Cassidy passed away from organ failure, his daughter Katie vowed to make the most out of time with her loved ones as she revealed her late father’s last words.

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“Words cant express the solace our family’s received from all the love & support during this trying time,” the actress tweeted on Saturday. “My father’s last words were ‘So much wasted time.’ This will be a daily reminder for me to share my gratitude with those I love as to never waste another minute….thank you.”

The 30-year-old actress had a complicated relationship with her father for most of her life, having been raised by her mother and model Sherry Williams and her stepfather Richard Benedon.

“Because I didn’t raise her, I didn’t have to parent her,” David told PEOPLE in 2009. “I’m always here and totally nonjudgmental. To be able to go to someone I’m genetically linked to, tell them anything and know that they’re not going to judge me -- it’s unbelievable.”

“It’s nice when your dad can be your friend,” Katie echoed her father’s words at the time.

However, the pair drifted apart over the years, and were no longer on speaking terms as of February of this year.

“I wasn’t her father. I was her biological father but I didn’t raise her. She has a completely different life,” David explained. “[But] I’m proud of her. She’s very talented. It’s hard for me to even accept how old she is now.”

The star was hospitalized last weekend for liver and kidney failure. Following his tragic death on Tuesday, his family announced that sad news and thanked fans for their support via a touching statement:

“On behalf of the entire Cassidy family, it is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our father, our uncle, and our dear brother, David Cassidy. David died surrounded by those he loved, with joy in his heart and free from the pain that had gripped him for so long. Thank you for the abundance and support you have shown him these many years.”

Cassidy is survived by his daughter Katie Cassidy; son Beau Cassidy; brothers Shaun, Patrick and Ryan; stepmother Shirley Jones; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

Troopers: Naked couple crashes car while having sex; baby was in back seat

Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 1:25 AM

Washington State Patrol.
David Ryder/Getty Images
Washington State Patrol.(David Ryder/Getty Images)

A naked couple, having sex in their car while their baby was in the back seat, crashed while driving, the Washington State Patrol said.

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The man was driving on Highway 7 near La Grande in Pierce County, naked and having sex with a woman who also was naked, when he missed a curve, went off the road and struck a tree, State Patrol spokeswoman Brooke Bova said.

The crash occurred Wednesday at 6 p.m. troopers said.

Witnesses told troopers both the man and woman were naked when they got out of the car, The Everett Herald reported. Troopers said they were also both impaired.

The woman wasn't wearing a seat belt. She was taken to the hospital with several broken bones. The 3-month-old child in the back seat was not injured.

The man was arrested and booked into Pierce County Jail on suspicion of driving under the influence, vehicular assault and child endangerment, the Herald reported.

Troopers said the man has three prior DUI convictions.