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Autonomous Driving FAQ

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When are autonomous vehicles coming?

Waymo’s autonomous vehicles began carrying members of the public through its Trusted Tester Program in Arizona in 2017. During this trial, Waymo began accepting hundreds of people with diverse backgrounds and transportation needs to ride in and give feedback about its autonomous vehicles. Rather than offering people one or two rides, the goal of the program was to give participants access to its fleet every day, at any time, to go anywhere within a service area that’s about twice the size of San Francisco. Waymo’s trusted testers have played an important role in shaping the way it’s bringing autonomous driving technology into the world. 

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Waymo is taking the next step in its journey with the introduction of a commercial autonomous driving technology service, Waymo One. For the first time, Waymo is moving beyond research and development with its trusted testers. Waymo One is a service that will be available to the public at scale. With Waymo’s app and a few taps, riders are able to hail rides across their territory in Metro Phoenix. But, this is just the next step in a long journey. Waymo is dedicated to evolving its service and expanding availability in an iterative timeline.

Enabling Not Disrupting

Waymo has also been teaming up with partners to create new experiences and provide unique value for its riders. Metro Phoenix's transit agency and Waymo launched a first-of-its-kind partnership to experiment with how new technology can complement traditional public transit options. Waymo joined forces with Valley Metro for a two-year pilot program connecting riders to and from light rail stops. A growing number of people want to take the bus or light rail to work but live too far from the nearest station. This "first-mile, last-mile" service could drastically simplify the act of commuting.

What are the benefits of autonomous driving technology? Are autonomous vehicles good?

Unlike humans, autonomous vehicles never get tired, drunk, or distracted, with the added ability to see in all directions at once. An array of sensors is constantly monitoring other road users, lights, and signals to react to changes in real time. Waymo is a cautious and defensive driver.

Autonomous driving technology has the potential to save lives and save the U.S. economy billions of dollars due to death and injury caused by traffic accidents, the majority of which involve human error.

Are autonomous vehicles safe?

All autonomous driving technologies are different, and each autonomous driving technology company is responsible for ensuring the safety of its vehicles through its own safety program. We can only speak to Waymo’s safety program and approach. Waymo considers safety from the ground up and incorporates safety at every system level, from design to testing and validation. It is a multi-pronged approach that builds upon best practices from a variety of industries, including aerospace, automotive, and defense.

Waymo has over 20 million miles of on-road driving experience. Learn more about Waymo’s extensive testing program which has helped us make rapid improvements in its technology.

Are autonomous vehicles legal?

Some states have passed laws that define and/or regulate autonomous vehicles and some have not. At the federal level, voluntary recommendations for autonomous vehicles has been released. Wherever Waymo operates, state and local traffic laws and regulations are built into.

Are autonomous vehicles safer than humans?

In the U.S., there were more than a million collisions last year, and over 37,000 of these collisions were fatal. Almost all crashes have the same factor in common: human error.

In the early stages of its autonomous driving technology program, Google engineers set out to answer a unique question: could technology be developed to solve one of society’s biggest challenges by reducing the road fatalities/lives lost in traffic crashes every year?

In search of an answer, they grew the team and formed a braintrust of NASA engineers, safety experts from NHTSA, and specialists from defense and auto industries, among others. Together, they created a playbook for rigorous and comprehensive development and testing of this technology.

In order to live up to its mission, Waymo is pursuing fully autonomous driving technology where its technology performs all the dynamic tasks of driving. Waymo believes that if we can create the world’s most experienced driver, it can reduce the number of lives lost on our roads every day.

How do autonomous vehicles work?

Waymo was built to be a cautious and defensive driver with more experience than any human on the road. Waymo’s autonomous driving system doesn’t just detect the presence of other objects; it actually understands what an object is, how it’s likely to behave, and how that could affect Waymo’s behavior on the road.

Waymo’s multi-layered sensor suite—including cameras, radar, and LiDAR—works together seamlessly to paint a detailed 3D picture of the world, showing pedestrians, cyclists, other vehicles, traffic lights, construction cones, and other road features. It can see 360 degrees, process and understand different colors, and hear sirens in the vicinity. Learn more about how Waymo’s autonomous driving technology works.