What just happened? Robotaxi company Waymo has released a trove of data that could help convince pessimists that fully autonomous vehicles are safer than those controlled by humans. The Alphabet subsidiary announced that its taxis reached the milestone of driving one million miles in January without anyone behind the wheel, and there were no reported injuries or deaths throughout that time.
In addition to nobody being hurt as Waymo racked up one million miles of autonomous driving, there were only two incidents that meet the criteria for inclusion on the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration’s database for car crashes, called the Crash Investigation Sampling System (CISS). This criteria includes the need to file a police report or one or more vehicles being towed away.
Those incidents weren’t the fault of the self-driving systems. The more serious of the two involved a Waymo taxi being hit from behind by a vehicle whose driver was looking at their cell phone while approaching a red light.
In case you missed it: @Waymo is operating driverless 24/7 in all of San Francisco. ï¿½-ï¿½-ðÂÂÂ Here’s a recent ride I took from Upper Haight to Coit Tower, traversing some particularly hilly parts of SF! âÂ°ï¸Â pic.twitter.com/t3FMYhnctn
— Daylen Yang (@daylenyang) December 27, 2022
The other incident happened when a car pulled into the same lane as a Waymo taxi and suddenly hit its brakes, causing the self-driving car to go into the back of said vehicle as the taxi didn’t have enough time to slow down.
There were an additional 18 minor contact events that did not meet the criteria for the database, including a car backing out of a parking space into a stationary Waymo waiting to pick up a rider, and a portable plastic sign stand getting blown by the wind and making contact with a vehicle. Waymo said that more than half of all these contact events were the result of a human driver hitting one of its stationary taxis.
“Despite 24/7 driving across major U.S. cities, Waymo experienced no collisions at all of the types that are responsible for 94% of fatal collisions in NHTSA’s crash investigation database,” the company writes.
Following a rigorous cycle of validation and safety readiness evaluation, @Waymo is starting fully-autonomous (no human driver) testing in LA. Thrilled by the data confirming, once again, how well our ML-based 5th-gen Driver generalizes across cities! pic.twitter.com/hd0XU5zecT
— Dmitri Dolgov (@dmitri_dolgov) February 27, 2023
Waymo co-CEO Dmitri Dolgov recently tweeted that the company had started testing its autonomous Jaguar I-PACE vehicles in Los Angeles. They are currently available to the public in Phoenix, Arizona, and San Francisco, California.
Waymo isn’t the only robotaxi service to clock up one million miles. GM subsidiary Cruise hit the same milestone last week.