Waymo retires Firefly to focus on tech partnerships with car makers

David Murphy

Google parent Alphabet’s self-driving car division Waymo is to cease production of its autonomous far, dubbed the Firefly, in order to concentrate on its technology partnerships with other car makers.

In a blog post announcing the move, Waymo’s lead industrial designer YooJung Ahn and lead systems engineer Jaime Waydo, specifically referenced the company’s work with Chrysler on the self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan. “By focusing on mass-produced vehicles like the Pacifica minivan, we’ll be able to bring fully self-driving technology to more people, more quickly,” they wrote.

Late last year, the two companies completed the production of 100 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans with full self-driving operations. The Pacifica minivans are equipped with the latest generation of Waymo’s custom-built radar, LiDAR and vision systems and an all-new AI compute platform. They are also not subject to the Firefly’s maximum 25mph speed restriction.

Alongside its work with Chrysler, Waymo is also involved in formal discussions with Honda to integrate its self-driving technology in Honda vehicles. And just last month, Uber’s US ride-hailing rival Lyft announced that it was teaming up with Waymo, to collaborate on the development of self-driving cars.
Firefly, which started out in 2013 as a post-it note origami prototype, made the headlines on 20 October 2015, when Steve Mahan, who is legally blind, took a journey through an Austin neighbourhood in a Firefly with no controls or human backup.

For anyone getting nostalgic for a vintage self-driving car, you’ll be able to see a Firefly in the flesh at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA and the Design Museum in London.