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November 6, 2023

Road trip! How our cross-country testing helps advance the Waymo Driver

  • , technology

Experience is the best teacher, no matter if you're learning to drive a car or getting to know a new city. The Waymo Driver — our core set of technology comprised of hardware and software that enables autonomous driving — has multiple lifetimes of experience navigating the real world and helping people and things get where they're going safely. To bring the benefits of our technology to more people in more places and deliver on our mission to improve road safety, we take the Waymo Driver on road trips to regions where the driving culture and conditions differ from the areas we regularly operate.

Each time we test the Waymo Driver in regions far from where we typically operate, we prioritize safety and are mindful of our footprint. Here's what we do on these road trips:

Travel First, we bring a small fleet of vehicles equipped with the Waymo Driver to a new city, and sometimes, we return to cities we've visited before. Testing fleets are limited and closed to the public. Initially, human specialists drive these vehicles manually to help provide the Waymo Driver context of where it's operating.

Drive Once the Waymo Driver understands the lay of the land, the vehicles can begin driving autonomously. During these trips, human specialists provide feedback to our engineering teams on the driving experience and flag unique nuances that might come with operating in new areas. Simultaneously, our engineering team can evaluate the Waymo Driver's performance in a virtual replica of the new location to measure how it generalizes.

Apply Our teams use the new learnings and insights gathered during this time to continue refining the Waymo Driver's capabilities and service experience. Driving in dozens of different cities over the years has helped inform the design and capabilities of our sensing technology, improve the Waymo Driver's performance in the cities we already operate, and safely bring our technology to new places. With this applied knowledge, we will progress even faster with each new place we bring the Waymo Driver, and eventually have fewer novel situations that we'll have to teach the Driver to navigate. For example, our rain testing in Miami was instrumental in enabling us to serve riders fully autonomously in wet and rainy conditions in California and Phoenix.

As we scale up our fully autonomous ride-hailing service in San Francisco, Metro Phoenix, Los Angeles, Austin, and beyond, we're excited to perform this testing in parallel. We're grateful to government and community partners, who help make this testing possible. We'll continue to notify our riders, the communities we're on the road in, and government stakeholders when and where we bring the Driver for testing.

If you're interested in staying up to date on where the Waymo Driver is testing, follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or LinkedIn, or sign up for updates through the Waymo One app.