Pour one out for Firefly, Google’s quirky little self-driving car
Sad news, quirky car enthusiasts: Waymo is taking its fleet of tiny self-driving vehicles off the roads.
The autonomous car company announced it will retire the Firefly, the round-topped two-seater that served as the most obvious visual marker of Google’s self-driving car efforts long before the Waymo brand was on the scene. The prototype was introduced to the public back in 2014, when it offered awe-struck Californians a first-hand look at the future of autonomous transportation.
The Firefly, with its one-of-a-kind steering wheel and pedal-free design, was instrumental in the development of Google’s self-driving tech, logging millions of test miles rolling along at 25 mph.
“By designing and building a truly self-driving vehicle from scratch, we were able to crack some of the earliest self-driving puzzles — where to place the sensors, how to integrate the computer, what controls passengers need in a car that drives itself,” the Waymo team wrote in the blog post commemorating the Firefly’s retirement.
But with Waymo’s rapid advancements since spinning out from Google last year and major innovations in the broader self-driving space, the quaint Firefly has been left in the dust.
The Firefly’s crowning achievement was a demonstration that exemplified Google’s self-driving goals: expanding safe mobility for everyone. The company staged the first-ever fully autonomous trip in Austin in 2015 with Steve Mahan, a blind man, in the passenger seat.
Now that the tech has matured and Waymo is focused on producing its own hardware to better serve its software platform, the company will throw all of its efforts into its other vehicles, most notably with its fleet of Chrysler Pacifica minivans, which will be used in the Phoenix-based public pilot program. Also, expect to see more of its efforts shifted to new experiments, like trucks.
But the contributions of the Firefly won’t be forgotten — and it’ll have the chance for one last victory lap before going off the roads for good. Members of the fleet will take two final road trips in Phoenix and Austin in August and October, respectively, before being enshrined in The Computer History Museum and the Design Museum in London.
Happy trails as you drive off into the sunset, Firefly.