Waymo Pulls Back the Curtain On 6.1 Million Miles of Self-Driving Car Data

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: In its first report on its autonomous vehicle operations in Phoenix, Arizona, Waymo said that it was involved in 18 crashes and 29 near-miss collisions during 2019 and the first nine months of 2020. These crashes included rear-enders, vehicle swipes, and even one incident when a Waymo vehicle was T-boned at an intersection by another car at nearly 40 mph. The company said that no one was seriously injured and “nearly all” of the collisions were the fault of the other driver. The report is the deepest dive yet into the real-life operations of the world’s leading autonomous vehicle company, which recently began offering rides in its fully driverless vehicles to the general public. … [I]n this paper, and another also published today, the company is showing its work. Waymo says its intention is to build public trust in automated vehicle technology, but these papers also serve as a challenge to other AV competitors.

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.