Google’s autonomy division will instead focus on its Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid test cars.
Wave goodbye to the tiny little self-driving pods called “Firefly.” Waymo, formerly known as the Google self-driving car project, is retiring its fleet of cutesy autonomous vehicles that have been in use since 2014.
The pod cars, which were introduced to the public three years ago, were used for real-world testing of autonomous car technology. The company says the cars were never intended to be used for the long-term, but instead gave Waymo early information about how to mount sensors, integrate the computer with drive controls, and so on. Collectively, the Firefly pod cars have driven millions of miles without human intervention; in fact, over time, they’ve required humans to take over less and less often. Waymo also developed a special wiper to keep bird poop and other debris off the all-important, roof-mounted LIDAR sensor that allows the cars to “see” their environment.
Waymo will now focus its development efforts on its fleet of 600 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid autonomous cars. The Firefly pods could only travel at 25 miles per hour and had sparse interiors; Waymo says moving to the minivans, “we’ll be able to bring fully self-driving technology to more people, more quickly.”
Compared to the pods, the Pacificas also have newer LIDAR, radar, and camera systems; and an updated artificial-intelligence computer system. In fact, Waymo is now soliciting volunteers who want to be among the first to ride in the prototype vehicles.
Already miss the cute little self-driving pods? You’ll be able to find some on display at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, and in the Design Museum in London. Waymo will also take the cars on a road trip to the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix this August, then to The Thinkery in Austin, Texas, in October.
“Firefly has taken us on an incredible journey over the last three years, and we’re looking forward to sharing this bit of self-driving history with the world,” the company wrote in a blog post.