The Bold Robocar Roaming Las Vegas Without a Human Backup

WIRED | 1/16/2019 | Jack Stewart
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I buckle my seatbelt, and then double check it, after I climb into the back of a white, black, and orange Toyota Prius V wagon. I’m tense, but the two engineers, one in back with me, the other riding shotgun, seem reassuringly relaxed.

We roll forward, turning right out of the parking lot at the Hard Rock Hotel, and head into the streets of Las Vegas—with nobody in the driver’s seat. Soon, the car is merging into traffic at 40 mph, the steering wheel spinning and the turn signals flicking on and off on their own. I’ve witnessed plenty of self-driving demonstrations, some of them here in Vegas, but never one without a human holding their hands over the controls, poised to brake, or swerve, if the computer struggles.

Time - Nobody - Wheel - Experience - Dmitry

“The first time with nobody behind the wheel it’s a different experience,” says Dmitry Polishchuk, head of autonomous driving for Yandex, who’s sitting next to me. “But at some point, you stop paying attention.”

I pepper him with questions about what the car’s doing, keeping an eye on the screen between the back seats which gives a representation of what the self-driving computer can see, and the decisions it’s making. He interrupts me at one point, smiling: “Look to your right.” I glance at the next lane, where a driver is double, then triple, checking what’s she’s seeing. Even during CES, when the Las Vegas Strip is peppered with autonomous vehicles and their distinctive, bulky, sensors, a car with nobody in the driver’s seat is a big deal. I catch her eye, and she joins us laughing at the absurd situation.

Americans - Yandex - Proportion - Population - Services

Americans may not know Yandex, but a large proportion of the global population uses its services every day. The tech giant is referred to, depending on the situation, as the Google, Uber, Spotify, Amazon,...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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