Waymo is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, Google's parent company, which develops autonomous driving technology. It operates a commercial self-driving taxi service in the greater Phoenix, Arizona region, called Waymo One. The company has fully mapped the Chandler area in Arizona. Towards the end of the year 2020, the company went into public service and became the first commercial service to operate self-driving cars without requiring human drivers as a backup.
The company is also developing its technology for use by other vehicles that include delivery vans, logistics vehicles and class 8 tractor-trailers. It also has partnered with leading vehicle manufacturers that include Jaguar Land Rover, Fiat Chrysler, Nissan-Renault, Daimler-AG and Volvo.
Waymo uses a combination of chips and sensors along with cameras to improve car visibility. It also has wipers to clear the lidar system. "Much of the self-driving hardware used by the company is developed in-house. Part of the hardware included enhanced camera vision system, several sensors, laser-based lidar system and improved radar systems. The sensors are able to give the vehicle a 360-degree view of the objects around them.
On the other hand, lasers can detect objects that are up to 300 metres away. There are also short-range lasers that focus on items close to the vehicle, while the radar can track objects as they move. The interior of the car does not have a steering wheel but a few buttons that include pull over, help, lock and start ride.
Engineers at Waymo have created a simulator program called Carcraft. This program simulates the driving conditions to help its vehicles determine the optimum settings for different driving conditions. This software has helped the vehicles navigate various cities where the company has or intends to start its service. It boasts of over 6 billion miles travelled by the end of 2020.
Are Self-Driving Vehicles Safe?
So far, the self-driving cars have been involved in a few, non-fatal minor collisions. "Most of these accidents were caused by other vehicles flouting some rules or being at fault. Generally, the vehicles are safe to ride in. To show confidence in the technology, the company publishes regular reports on incidents on the road that involve their vehicles. It also keeps testing their technologies on harsher conditions such as winter roads, crowded locations and off-road conditions.
The company expects that self-driving technology will be the new norm in the future. It is a matter of time before the technology becomes available around the world.