Riding with Waymo
Waymo is the latest company to get approval to operate passenger-carrying AV’s in California. Earlier this month, the California Public Utilities Commission granted Waymo a permit to test driverless AV passenger service so long as a driver is still present in the car. Zoox, Pony.ai, and AutoX have also received similar passenger-carrying permits as part of the CPUC pilot program.
This permit differs from what’s been distributed to over 60 companies by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV permits allow companies to test AV’s in the state as part of California’s Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service pilot. This competitive list of permit holders are allowed to have their AV’s on the road so long as a driver is present in the vehicle. However, unlike Waymo and the rest of the CPUC permit holders, the DMV permit holders are restricted from carrying passengers.
At an event last week, CTO Dmitri Dolgoc announced that in addition to the 10 million miles Waymo cars have clocked on the road, their fleet has driven over 10 billion miles in simulation.
This is important because the functionality of Waymo’s real world AV’s are in a constantly developing feedback loop with Waymo’s simulation vehicles. Waymo’s simulation program, Carcraft, runs 25,000 self-driving cars around the clock, advancing the complexity of the simulation with every interaction and distance traveled. Because real world Waymo cars capture 3D views of their surroundings on the road, Carcraft developers can use this visual data to recreate these environments in the digital simulation model. This way, if a Waymo vehicle runs into an issue on the street, this scenario can then be digitally modeled and tested thousands of times so the vehicle can learn from its mistakes. Simulation insight is then disseminated to the entire digital fleet and downloaded to the real world cars, strengthening the collective knowledge and complexity of Waymo’s AVs.