back to article Waymo robo taxis rack up a million miles without killing anyone

Alphabet's Waymo subsidiary says its driverless cars have driven more than one million miles on public roads with no human at the wheel. Waymo marked its achievement with a blog post and an accompanying paper [PDF] analyzing the safety performance of its cars when operated without a driver. Remarkably, no one was hurt in the …

  1. spold Silver badge

    Who invented the terminology?

    So how did you get on wiv that bird last night Fred? Well, I was hopin' for a consensual car encounter, but we only managed a minor contact event... I was expecting Waymo than that.

  2. lglethal Silver badge
    Trollface

    I'm just imagining the scenario where the Waymo car smacked into the rear of the car that cut them off.

    The Yobbo driver jumps out ready to punch on, rushes to the Waymo ready to pull the door open and attack the driver. The Yob gets there and... No one's in the car. He looks around for someone legging it away, but can't see anyone. You can almost see the brain processes in work,with the dumb "Ummm..." "Cor blimey, one of those brainy cars. What do I do now?"

    ;)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Rob all of the tech… before the Rozzers arrive.

      I’m sure some people in China would buy it.

  3. Flak
    Go

    Progress, but miles to go...

    It is great to see some progress and real life experience with self-driving cars. I am less concerned about the accidents described than the number of times the autopilot disengaged and needed human intervention.

    It amazes me how the human mind can be in charge of a car as a 'background process' while, talking, listening to music or just thinking - I don't know how often I have driven home from work and could not remember parts of the journey. How can a human go from a total non-driver to a level of competence to pass a test in, say, 10-15 hours, but AI cannot be relied on even after a million miles (which is roughly what I have driven in almost 40 years on the road)?

    As with so many things, perhaps self driving technology should try and understand and imitate nature. Perhaps that is already being done...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: from a total non-driver to a level of competence to pass a test in, say, 10-15 hours

      This is arguably a sad commentary on the low bar for requirements to get a drivers' license in many places.

      "Know where the steering wheel is?"

      "Yup"

      "Gas pedal?"

      "Yup"

      "Brakes?"

      "Sober?"

      "Mostly"

      "Alive?"

      "Yeah"

      "Alright, here you go"

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Progress, but miles to go...

      This is good progress, but of course Waymo have chosen environments that are more suitable for their technology (as is sensible). Around here they'd find things rather more difficult, with a lot of unpaved and private roads, roads with minimal forward visibility, roads with unguarded hazards like long drops, unpredictable road conditions (such as patches of ice in shaded areas of otherwise-clear roads), competition from poorly-maintained vehicles that may lack things like brake lights, highly erratic behavior by drivers and pedestrians, animals in the roadway, and so on.

      But then there's not much demand for robo-taxies around here. Go ahead and roll them out in major cities, and cut down on the rideshare drivers prowling around the city looking for fares, and wasting fuel and generating pollution in the process. I have sympathy for traditional taxicab drivers (unlike some folks here), but that ship has sailed; the rideshare companies already destroyed the industry.

  4. MatthewSt

    Number plates

    How long before the cameras start reading the number plates of surrounding vehicles and swapping notes on who's a bad driver, who to give more space to etc?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hey, these Waymo cars seem to be the very model of safety!

    Now, I just need to borrow a nun, a baby, three convicts and a dog.

  6. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    A million miles isn't very much. According to that standard it would be very good if only every 20th car on the roads killed someone during its existence. That's a low bar.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      My current car is approach 6 years old and 250,000 miles on it, so yeah, to some of us a million miles isn't a great deal. To others, it's more than they will drive in a lifetime :-)

      But on that note, as someone else mentioned, the Waymo fleet is driving at fairly low speeds in specific geofenced areas of a city. The number specified for human drivers isn't limited by the same factors and includes all type of driving on types of roads and conditions. There are probably no stats for human driven accidents only in similar conditions so the comparis is almost certainly invalid.

    2. Justthefacts Silver badge

      Mis-reading…..

      Not just no deaths, *no injuries* in a million miles, and only two collisions requiring a tow away. U.K. human average is: about 150,000 injuries per 300 billion miles = two *injuries* per million miles. Waymo is out-matching the average (inattentive) human

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Mis-reading…..

        "Waymo is out-matching the average (inattentive) human"

        No, as per another copmment I made, you can't compare the stats. Waymos miles are driven in specific geofenced urban areas, avoiding the city centre and only at the quietest parts of the night, ie 10pm to 5am[*]. The injuries per million miles of human drivers is measured across all road types and conditions, urban, rural and motorway, day, night, rush hours etc.

        [*] I'm inferring that from the article. It may only be the actual public use taxi part of the trial that has time and geofenced limitations.

  7. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    My thoughts

    "no more than brief loss of consciousness, a sternum fracture, or the fracture of two or fewer ribs."

    That seems pretty serious to me but comes across as being fairly minor in the article. I suppose, compared with death or life-changing injuries, they are, but I'd certainly not enjoy either of the latter two and probably not the first either!

    "It involved a Waymo vehicle that could not slow down in time to avoid hitting a car that had pulled into its lane and then suddenly braked."

    From the description, that was entirely the fault of the car in front. Maintaining a safe braking distance isn't possible if someone suddenly and without warning pulls in front of you and slams on the brakes,

    Overall though, for the circumstances, this actually sounds like progress. I'd like to see the stats over time where a human had to intervene though. Is the graph showing a downward trend? Are there spikes when software updates are applied for testing? Are any updates rolled back or superseded? I doubt we'll get to see that graph since that would probably be "commercially sensitive"

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