Waymo logs in 20 million miles of self-driving
Google’s autonomous car Waymo has reached a record of 20 million miles traveled in fully self-driving mode over 11 years.
Fortune’s Aaron Pressman reported the news:
Autonomous cars from Waymo, owned by Google parent Alphabet, drove 10 million miles on public roads in about the past year, doubling the company’s self-driving record of the prior 10 years, CEO John Krafcik said on Monday.
“We’re now beyond 20 million miles of fully self-driving, like, really self driving,” Krafcik said in an interview at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech dinner in Las Vegas during the CES conference. “You need to have a lot of real world experience. There’s no way to avoid that. You must have it.”
The company started life in 2009 as a Google research project known as Chauffeur. It was renamed in 2016 and got permission to start its driverless service in the Phoenix area a year later. Waymo doesn’t disclose its revenue or profitability.
The company’s driverless cars, mainly Chrysler Pacificas outfitted with special hardware and software, are currently offering a ride hailing service in Phoenix. The service has about 1,500 monthly active users there. The company also uses its autonomous fleet to make deliveries in the Phoenix area and runs self-driving heavy trucks, Krafcik says.
Richard Nieva from CNet wrote:
CEO John Krafcik made the announcement in Las Vegas at CES, the world’s largest consumer technology conference.
“You need to have a lot of real world experience,” Krafcik said at a dinner event hosted by Fortune Magazine. “There’s no way to avoid it.”
Waymo, which started in 2009 as a Google project called Chauffeur, took a decade to drive its first 10 million miles, said Krafcik. The company doubled that total in just over a year, he said. The distance would amount to circling the globe 800 times, the company said.
The announcement comes as Waymo and other car companies aim to take autonomous cars mainstream. Three years ago, the company began a pilot ride-hailing program picking up passengers in the Phoenix area. Last year, the company began testing rides with Phoenix passengers in cars that were completely autonomous — without a safety driver behind the wheel.
Kyle Wiggers from VentureBeat noted:
The updated metric puts Waymo far and away ahead of rivals like Yandex and Baidu, whose cars had driven around 1 million miles as of October and July, respectively. In late 2017, the cofounder of Cruise, GM’s self-driving unit, told investors it was on the verge of putting 1 million miles on its autonomous test cars a month.
Of course, it’s worth acknowledging the debate around autonomous miles as a measure of progress. Noah Zych, head of system safety at Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, told Wired in an interview that miles traveled isn’t particularly insightful without context like location. Derek Kan, U.S. secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, echoed that sentiment in remarks at a conference in Washington two years ago.
But Waymo argues the contrary. “To put this in perspective, 20 million miles of driving experience is the equivalent of driving 800 times around the globe, making 40 trips to the moon and back, and accumulating 1,400 years of driving experience for an average American driver,” wrote the company in a press release. “As we drive the next 10 million miles and beyond, we’ll continue to scale our fully driverless miles, grow our community of riders, and tackle new geographies and related complexities, empowered by our fifth generation hardware suite.”