This 360-degree Waymo video gives glimpse into our driverless future

All you have to do is 'sit back, relax and enjoy the ride'

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Would you get inside a driverless minivan?

As part of its efforts to assuage public fears of driverless cars, Google spinoff Waymo released a 360-degree video of one of its self-driven minivans in action.

The video, which was highlighted by outlets including the Washington Post and the Verge, follows one of Waymo’s driverless minivans as it cruises through the streets of Arizona. The robot taxi company’s cars use LIDAR sensing and radar technology to identify objects such as other vehicles and pedestrians, along with high-resolution cameras to monitor changing road conditions. Computer vision also allows the self-driven cars to spot objects such as traffic lights and turns up to 300 yards away.

In 2017, Waymo chose Phoenix and some of its surrounding cities as the metropolitan area in which to start test driving its Chrysler Pacifica minivans. In January, the state of Arizona approved the company’s application to start its own city transportation company — and eventually start charging for rides in direct competition to traditional ride-hailing services like Uber.

That said, driverless cars are still a contentious idea for most city dwellers. While research shows that they could maximize time spent in transit, free up parking lot space for other uses and allow people to buy property farther away from urban centers, many people still balk at the idea of a car operating entirely without a driver.

As the narrator in the Waymo video explains the technology behind the driverless car, the video then pans to the inside of the minivan. Inside, we see windows, a back seat, several screens that show the road and, naturally, a driver’s seat with a steering wheel but no driver.

“This is the latest step in our efforts to help people understand our technology and how it can make it safer and easier for everyone to get around,” Meiling Tan, Waymo’s Head of Marketing, wrote in a Medium post that described how the 360-degree video was made. In it, she explains that Waymo filmed what a driverless car “sees” on the road and then had its engineers make the footage into a 360-degree video.

According to the company, Waymo test drove its cars in 25 American cities and logged 5 million miles since starting testing in 2015. The last million miles was achieved in just a few months, between November 2017 and January 2018.

Email Veronika Bondarenko