Waymo's Autonomous Vehicles Have Covered 8 Million Miles on Public Roads

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【Summary】Waymo continues to mark its place as the technology company to beat, as its self-driving vehicles are driving approximately 25,000 miles per day.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Sep 02, 2018 9:00 AM PT
Waymo's Autonomous Vehicles Have Covered 8 Million Miles on Public Roads

When it comes to autonomous-vehicle testing, Waymo is one of the obvious leaders. Earlier this March, Navigant Research named Waymo, because of its vision, partners, go-to market strategy, technology, production strategy, product quality and reliability sales, marketing and distribution, product capability, staying power, and product portfolio, as a leader in the race. 

As a leader, Waymo announced that its autonomous vehicles had impressively traveled a total of 5 million miles earlier this year. That was an impressive figure, as it took the company just three months to reach — three months from breaking the 4-million mile mark. At the time, the technology company claimed that its vehicles were traveling the same amount of miles the average American driver travels in a year in one day. According to the Federal Highway Administration, that means Waymo's vehicles were covering 13,476 miles a day. 

That figure is even more impressive when you consider that one of Waymo's chief rivals, Uber, only covered 2 million miles at the end of 2017. 

Chrysler Pacifica Minivan.jpg

Waymo Increases Its Lead

It looks like Waymo has increased its lead as the leader of autonomous miles, as the company has hit another milestone. Waymo CEO John Krafcik stated that the company's autonomous cars have traveled a total of 8 million miles on public roads while onstage with Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval at the National Governors Association in Santa Fe, N.M. 

Waymo announced that it had reached the 5 million mark in February, which means the company's self-driving vehicles have traveled an additional 3 million miles in just another five months. 

In a tweet, Krafcik stated that Waymo's driverless cars were traveling at a rate of 25,000 miles a day. That is more than double the distance the average American drives in a single year. 

Is It Enough?

While some would think that traveling 25,000 miles a day on public roads would be enough, Krafcik also pointed out that the company is continuing to use simulations to test its machine. Waymo, according to its CEO, has covered more than 5 billion miles in simulation. All of this testing is allowing Waymo to build "the world's most experienced driver." 

That astonishing number is only set to grow, as Waymo increases its fleet of self-driving cars. Waymo has been using Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans, but has recently announced a new partnership with Jaguar, as well as a larger number of cars from Chrysler. In April, Waymo announced that Jaguar would be supplying the technology company with 20,000 units of its electric I-Pace SUVs. Shortly after, FCA announced that Waymo would receive an additional 62,000 Pacifica Hybrid minivans. With extra cars at its disposal, Waymo will be able to travel more miles. 

As Tech Crunch points out, covering all of those miles helps Waymo get more data, which will help it reach its goal of launch a commercial autonomous transportation service by the end of 2018. According to the outlet, approximately 400 residents in Phoenix have received access to the program. Residents can use an app to get a ride in one of the company's self-driving Pacifica Hybrid minivans. 

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Waymo Is Looking Past Autonomous Cars

Autonomous taxis aren't the only things that Waymo is working on. The company is looking to apply its self-driving system to logistics, making public transportation more accessible, and personal vehicles, claims Tech Crunch. 

We've seen the logistics, or trucking, aspect of Waymo's plan before. In March, Waymo announced that its driverless semi-trucks would be put to work in Atlanta. The pilot program would see the trucks haul cargo from and to Google's data centers. 

The other two parts of the company's plans have not come to light yet. But Krafcik did touch briefly on how Waymo would try to make public transportation more accessible on Thursday. 

"We'll have announcements soon about how we're going to use our technology move people from their homes or work to existing public infrastructure hubs so we as a society can get more ROI from those public transportation infrastructure investments," said Krafcik. 

While Waymo is working on bringing autonomy to market, Krafcik is wary about the mass adoption of autonomous cars. At the conference, he warned the audience that the mass adoption of self-driving vehicles will probably be "longer than you think," reports The Verge. He also took time to point out that there are no autonomous vehicles on sale at the moment and claimed that there wouldn't be in the near future. 

"There are no autonomous systems available, zero on the road today," said Krafcik. "Anything you can buy on the road today is a driver assist system, that means the driver is completely responsible for the car and I think there is so much confusion on that."  

Covering a total of 8 million miles of public testing is impressive and handedly beats anything that other companies have racked up. But there's still a lot more to do. A previous study conducted by RAND Corp. stated that companies would have to cover hundreds of millions or even billions of miles of real-world testing to be able to state that their autonomous systems have reliably worked. 

In that regard, Waymo may be leading everyone in miles, but it's still a long way off. Waymo's latest figure, though, is in addition to its simulation testing. And logging more than 5 billion miles in simulation is even more impressive. 

Various companies have developed their own simulators to help their autonomous cars tackle difficult situations over and over again. Waymo has its own Carcraft system that allows the company to run approximately 25,000 driverless vehicles virtually at all times. More real-world testing allows Waymo's engineers and developers to get a look at what happens on public roads, which can then be sent back to virtual reality for even more difficult testing. 

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