Waymo’s story begins within the San Francisco Bay Space. Since early 2009, after we accomplished our first 1,000 autonomous miles throughout California, we’ve pushed the size and breadth of the area, turning into intimately acquainted with the various distinctive challenges of driving in San Francisco and the encircling space.
We’ve additionally labored carefully with numerous members of the group, from native authorities and group teams to our fellow road-users, to deepen our understanding of the wants of the town’s residents. For instance, in fall 2020, we surveyed almost 1,000 San Franciscans to grasp their transportation wants. When requested to call components making it laborious to get across the metropolis, 63 p.c of respondents pointed to harmful drivers, 74 p.c to parking and 57 p.c to disturbing commutes. Worryingly, almost 1 / 4 didn’t really feel secure on San Francisco’s roads in any respect.
Autonomous autos promise to vary this, revolutionizing our cities by making transport safer, cheaper, and simpler to entry. However deploying autonomous driving know-how to get there – maybe one of many biggest engineering issues of our time – isn’t doable with out growing a deep understanding of the character of the challenges it should grasp.
Constructing essentially the most superior know-how stack for city driving
In San Francisco, which means tackling the town’s iconic topographical selection – from rolling hills to sandy ocean highways, tiny aspect streets to very large freeways, bike lanes to tram tracks, and all the things in between.
It additionally means studying the way to deal with the town’s different street customers safely. San Francisco’s streets are busy with visitors, pedestrians, cyclists, scooters, and emergency autos – and that’s to not point out the cable automobiles, trolleys, streetcars and light-weight rail autos that outline the cityscape.
Constructing an autonomous driving service that may deal with this complexity safely and successfully is a gigantic engineering problem. Over the previous decade, we’ve examined our know-how in dozens of cities to construct up essentially the most mature know-how stack within the trade – one superior sufficient to energy the US’s only public commercial ride-hailing service in Phoenix, Arizona, with no human controlling the autos both in-car or remotely.
All through that point, we’ve additionally been gearing our know-how to drive in dense cities akin to San Francisco. To offer just some examples:
- We’ve optimized the Waymo Driver’s 360° imaginative and prescient system and lidar to navigate the complexities of city driving. Our extremely delicate cameras can spot visitors lights altering at an extended distance – even among the many papel picado on 24th Avenue – to allow easy driving. And our cameras and lidar can immediately spot a jaywalker sprinting throughout our path and act appropriately – even after they emerge immediately from behind a automobile within the oncoming lane.
- We’ve additionally designed our software program to motive in regards to the context, which is important for driving safely in busy cities. Our notion system lets our Driver know the way to deal with a pedestrian, a tree – and a pedestrian carrying a Christmas tree. If we pull up subsequent to a bus by a crosswalk on Seashore Avenue in Fisherman’s Wharf, our Driver can motive that hidden passengers could also be getting off, and that they could quickly cross the road.
- We’re additionally constructing larger flexibility into our driving software program to deal with surprising adjustments to the street. If we’re driving on 19th Avenue throughout street work and our sensors spot visitors cones and street work indicators, our notion system understands that they’re guiding us out of the standard lane, and our planning and routing techniques can routinely replace the automobile’s path to navigate the brand new format.
Making continuous enhancements to our know-how
We’re now accelerating the event and testing of our know-how in cities, so we will at some point deliver the advantages of totally autonomous driving to extra individuals.
Nicely earlier than we deploy a business service, our workforce supplies suggestions on the product expertise, permitting us to validate the progress we’re making and proceed bettering the rider expertise. We’ve now began restricted rider testing in San Francisco with Waymo worker volunteers to assemble suggestions and proceed to enhance our know-how. We’re conducting this testing with enhanced COVID-19 protocols to make sure the security of everybody concerned.
Over the following few months, we’ll share additional particulars about how we’re optimizing our applied sciences to deal with driving in San Francisco.