Waymo Sends Koala-Cars Into Retirement

In a nostalgically sounding post Waymo-CEO John Krafcik announced that the self-driving test cars of the 3rd generation, internally known as ‘Firefly‘, will be retired. From the very beginning those cars were intended servings as experimental platform and were never intended to being mass-produced.

Waymo Firefly Paper Prototype
One of the first Firefly sketches included a backwards-facing third seat to encourage conversation. We ultimately replaced it with a storage bin; riders preferred front-facing seats to avoid motion sickness.

The Fireflies, which the media called Koala-cars, because of their characteristic front, and which had gotten the less charming name Google-eggs by the public, were the first cars developed from start as autonomous vehicles. They had neither steering wheels, not gas or break pedals. The cars were electric vehicles with induction charging, and had a top speed of 25 mph (40 km/h). Why the cars looked so ‘ugly’ was topic of a discussion some time ago.

Th fireflies, of which 40 were driving in Mountain View, CA, and Austin, TX, achieved some milestones in the development of self-driving vehicles. Not only did they collectively drive several millions of kilometers in city traffic, one of them also completed the first real autonomous ride, when the legally blind Steve Mahan completed on October 20th, 2015 in Austin a ride in it without any other help or backup driver.

After the Fireflies will be replaced by 600 Fiat-Chrysler Pacifica Minivans until end of the year, the Google-eggs will find their last stop in museums around the globe. One car has been for some time in the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, other cars are scheduled to end up in the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, The Thinkery in Austin, and the Design Museum in London.

This article has also been published in German.

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