Waymo has traded in the pod car for more practical wheels.
In a blog post last week, the company spun out of Google's self-driving car project said it has retired its koala-faced prototype, developed in 2013 and nicknamed internally "Firefly."
The decision comes as Waymo expands its fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans, offering rides in Arizona as part of its "early rider" program.
The Firefly played a primary role in Waymo's early history. It marks one of the first attempts to design a vehicle without driver controls. It was also the vehicle in which Waymo performed its first unsupervised self-driving ride in 2015.
Benching Firefly signals a new phase in Waymo's development of self-driving technology. To be a mass mobility provider, a two-seat pod car with a top speed of 25 mph will get you only so far. Waymo CEO John Krafcik has also stated that the company will not build its own vehicles — effectively making the retrofitted Chrysler Pacifica the "Waymo car."
Though Waymo had as many as 50 Firefly vehicles and 24 Lexus RX 450h crossovers permitted to test in California as of April, it has expanded its fleet of roomy Pacifica minivans to at least 600 vehicles.
Waymo said a few of the Firefly vehicles will be on display at museums in California and London, serving as reminders that the increasingly competitive and high-stakes self-driving space began with a friendly face.