The two papers take different approaches. The first outlines a multilayered approach that maps out Waymo’s approach to safety. It includes three layers: Hardware, including the vehicle itself, the sensor suite, the steering and braking system, and the computing platform; The automated driving system behavioral layer, such as avoiding collisions with other cars, successfully completing fully autonomous rides, and adhering to the rules of the road; Operations, like fleet operations, risk management, and a field safety program to resolve potential safety issues.
The second paper is meatier, with detailed information on the company’s self-driving operations in Phoenix, including the number of miles driven and the number of “contact events” Waymo’s vehicles have had with other road users. This is the first time that Waymo has ever publicly disclosed mileage and crash data from its autonomous vehicle testing operation in Phoenix. Between January and December 2019, Waymo’s vehicles with trained safety drivers drove 6.1 million miles. In addition, from January 2019 through September 2020, its fully driverless vehicles drove 65,000 miles. Taken together, the company says this represents “over 500 years of driving for the average licensed US driver,” citing a 2017 survey of travel trends by the Federal Highway Administration.
“This is a major milestone, we think, in transparency,” said Matthew Schwall, head of field safety at Waymo, in a briefing with reporters Wednesday. Waymo claims this is the first time that any autonomous vehicle company has released a detailed overview of its safety methodologies, including vehicle crash data, when not required by a government entity. “Our goal here is to kickstart a renewed industry dialogue in terms of how safety is assessed for these technologies,” Schwall said.