In early 2009 Google began the testing of “self-driving” cars, using Toyota Priuses as a testbed. The initial tests were solely on controlled courses and preset routes. It wasn’t until 2012 that the tech was deemed worthy of the real world. Testing began on freeways and eventually moved to more complex city streets. All the early testing was done with a test driver behind the wheel, just in case. Development was quick and in 2015 the first rider was driven in a vehicle without human controls on public roadways.
The company “Waymo” was created in 2016, after approximately 2 million test miles under its wheels as the Google self-driving car project, with the intent of creating autonomous cars for use in the real world. The mission was “to make it easy and safe for people and things to move around” Earlier this year Waymo had a fully automated fleet of 600 Chrysler minivans on the roads of Phoenix, AZ and intends to add literally thousands of additional vehicles soon, with a total announced fleet planned purchase of nearly 82,000 vehicles including 20,000 Jaguar SUVs and 62,000 Minivans.
Since it’s inception the company has been ramping up testing and development to an exponential level, doubling the total miles driven by autonomous vehicles since 2007 in just under 9 months. It also has been using simulators to build billions of more miles of experience into their systems. The goal is to “building the world’s most experienced driver”
The ride to become the most successful vehicle automation fleet in the world has not always been smooth. Waymo vehicles were involved in two accidents in the Phoenix area this year.
To put that into perspective, that is equivalent to the average driver at a rate 20k miles a year driving for nearly 200 years before getting into an accident, not a bad safety record. Also worth mentioning, both accidents were the fault of the driver in the other vehicle. In one case someone running a red light and in another a drunk driver.
Check out Waymo’s website https://www.waymo.com/ and the Twitter of John Kracik, head of Alphabet’s mobility division https://twitter.com/johnkrafcik for more info on Waymo, it’s mission, and it’s accomplishments.