Waymo Safety Report

Waymo recently released a Safety Report, that explains how they test and validate their self-driving cars.

On the one hand, it is awesome that Waymo wrote and released this. On the other hand, it’s not obvious who the audience is.

It’s clearly a marketing document. It even feels a little bit like something you’d pick up in a new car showroom. The pages have snazzy designs and pleasing fonts and graphics. Many of the 43 pages are given over to just a handful of statistics.

It’s also definitely a one-time document, as compared to the monthly safety report cards Google used to distribute as part of the Self-Driving Car Project. There is nothing in this new Safety Report that is calendar-specific.

That said, there is a wealth of high-level information in the report. Waymo goes into some detail on its testing processes and the scenarios that it tests. Not enough detail to be useful to engineers hoping to replicate Waymo’s processes, but enough to reassure the general public that Waymo has indeed thought this through.

Several sections explain how Waymo’s self-driving cars work, one section breaks down the ways in which Waymo analyzes safety (behavioral safety, functional safety, crash safety, operational safety, and non-collision safety).

But compared to the academic paper recently published by Mobileye, “On a Formal Model of Safe and Scalable Self-driving Cars”, Waymo’s report is aimed much more toward journalists and regulators and I suppose whoever in the general public is likely to flip through 43 pages of safety reporting.

My main takeaway from this is that Waymo must be inching ever closer to a public rollout of their vehicles. This is the type of document that they can send to new users, who will feel better having 43 pages of safety text, even if most of them never actually read it.

And if that’s the case, thank goodness for small steps toward a much better future.

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