We talked to a Waymo One customer about how automatic taxis were distracted by rainstorms
"You might think that if you were in an independent car, it would be a publication on all social media"
Last month, Waymo launched its first self-service taxi service - Waymo One - in Phoenix, Arizona, but you barely knew it by scrolling through your feed.
There are no Facebook posts, no direct videos, and no tweet posts. We do not know how many people use Google's self-driving Minivan cars (Waymo will not say), but those that are suddenly overlooked on social networks.
One exception is Sean Metz, a 30-year-old human resources manager who lives in Chandler, Arizona.
Since being invited to use Waymo One in December, Metz has posted at least 12 videos on Instagram and YouTube, documenting his experience with Waymo's self-powered Minivans.
He became a hero for independent car enthusiasts at Reddit
He has become an AV enthusiast in Reddit for getting ready to answer questions and send videos that have not been released from his games.
Weimu, who has never had a marketing opportunity, did not present an interview with the Metz team on his medium page.
"You think that if you were in an independent car, you would publish all the social media," Metz told me after asking him why he appeared to be the only person to post photos and videos of his trips with Waymo One.
Metz is certainly part of a very exclusive club.
For a few months in 2018, he was a member of Waymo's Early Rider, a group of 400 people or so in the Phoenix area chosen by the company for the self-driving taxi pilot test.
Waymo has tightly controlled the project information, and has banned the first two passengers from discussing their experiences.
All Waymo One passengers are the first of the previous passengers, but are not subject to non-disclosure agreements.
WAYMO ONE is not available to anyone who uses it
"The opportunity to be able to conduct such talks, and to share some comments on the subject, was really very exciting," Metz said.
Metz says he and his wife use Imo Wan about six to eight times a week for trips to groceries, restaurants, or when he knows he will go somewhere with limited stances.
Interestingly, he never used Aber or Lyft at all before signing up with Waymo, and downloaded the Uber application only to compare prices with Waymo One.
("They're so close ... I think it was about 20 cents cheaper with Waymo.")
His favorite car is a bicycle, used to facilitate nine miles to work as human resources manager in Tempe most days.
But in those days when the weather is very hot for the bike - it reached 122 degrees in Phoenix last year - will take Metz and Imo Wan.
While Waymo has been fairly transparent about some aspects of its business, there is still a lot we do not know about.
Specific details, such as the number of customers currently using Waymo One, and the precise geographical area of the service, and when the company expects to remove the human safety engines from behind the wheel, are a big question mark.
Waymo says that "hundreds" of the first passengers are on their way to call for Waymo One, and the service area "about 100 square miles" includes Chandler, Mesa, Tempe and Gilbert.
There were also questions raised about the quality of self-driving technology in Waymo.
According to a report in The Information, the most advanced cars in Waymo are still confused from time to time due to some traffic conditions, such as unprotected left turns.
This suggests that technology - although incredibly advanced - is still not fully ready for the real world.
Metz shared a few screenshots of the Waymo One application, which explains the geography of the service area and some of the accessibility features offered.
He told me that one question often asked was whether vehicles and IMSO avoided highways.
At first he told me that it was not a question he could really answer, because most of his trips with Waymo One did not require driving on highways.
But after our interview, he sent me a video about a recent night trip from the United States to 60 to Episode 101, after getting a flat tire on his bike.
(Even though he was unable to reach the trunk of the car, he was able to press on his damaged bike in the minivan.)
"With the wheel removed, it fits between the commander's captain!" Mitz wrote on the Reddit website. "I'm not sure, though. So again, I sent a letter of support for Wyomo and apologized cruelly after the ride because I think I got some dirt on the ceiling pulled out.
Remember a few moments when the Waymo car appeared confused in certain positions, such as a crowded car park outside Costco.
"I was really ambitious and tried to take him to Costco on weekends during the holiday season," he said. "Basically, we found something stuck outside the entrance." After several minutes of failure to find a gap through the number of pedestrians streaming in and out of the store, Metz said the car was "over" and that the safety driver had contacted the Waymo Remote Support Center to redirect the assistance.
"Basically, we got a kind of stuck out of the doorway"
The Waymo remote support workers located in offices in Phoenix, Mountain View, and Austin, Texas, provide an additional layer of oversight for their independent vehicles, with access to video channels from more than half a dozen cameras installed abroad and in trucks .
Precipitation and rain are another problem.
Metz said he praised a Waimo during a recent rainstorm and discovered that the company's human shipper was driving the car by hand.
But Metz said he did not criticize Ayumu for being too cautious, nor did he sympathize with Phoenix residents who complained of stumbling behind a slow-moving car.
He said: "If you are late and outperform [the speed limit], you are angry."
Another vehicle reports Waymo being attacked with knives and stones by the angry and horrified Arizonians in Metz, who says he never encountered any runner while riding in self-propelled vehicles.
The Chandler police recorded nearly twenty incidents over the past two years, the Arizona Republic reports. "It's Arizona," Metz said, laughing.
He said receiving and connecting with Waimo was not easy enough, although there was one incident when the pickup truck dropped him on the wrong side of the street.
"The driver put it in manual mode just because our trip was already over, to take us across the street," he said.
Such subtle corrections will become more complicated when Waymo removes drivers in the human safety of cars, as in the end.
Some felt that the service was superior.
The limited offering of Waymo One has helped boost the growing realization that self-driving cars - cars that do not actually work and require lower human inputs within a specific area - are still a long way off in the future.
Metz, for example, is happy to wait.
The fact that Waymo One is not really a driver does not bother him. At least not yet.
"I really want to see safety drivers stay in cars for at least three to six months," he said.
Metz said he would not know what to do if the passenger was stuck in the car, or caused a traffic accident, without a human driver to take the wheel.
"With how much technology is installed, I'd better wait three to six months for technology to go back to another decade or something because of something."
Metz is not an engineer or an expert in computer vision or artificial intelligence.
He's just a man in the back seat, excited about technology, but also eager to get to where he goes in one piece.
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