Waymo Drops Comprehensive Self-Driving Safety Assessment, Tries to Educate Public

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
waymo drops comprehensive self driving safety assessment tries to educate public

Autonomous cars have the unique capability to captivate the public’s imagination while simultaneously making them feel uneasy after considering things on a more practical level. A handful of self-driving related accidents, inconsistent development timetables, and a hands-off regulation strategy haven’t helped. But there is a sense that if the populace had a better handle on what went into making the technology work safely, some of their fears would be put to rest.

This week, Waymo — the relatively quiet autonomous vehicle arm of Alphabet Inc. — made an attempt to do just that. While also making a case for itself and the need for self-driving cars, the company released a 42-page outline of how its autonomous systems function. Written without a lot of technical jargon, the reading remains comprehensive and is one of the best attempts we’ve seen from a company to educate the public — rather than dazzle them with lofty promises.

Waymo has been on a bit of a safety kick this month. Taking into account that there is a good portion of the population that still feels anxious about self-driving cars, its new campaign is single minded in its goal to highlight safety and understanding. It’s probably some of the least duplicitous marketing we’ve ever seen and it serves not only to help Waymo, but any manufacturer hoping to sell autonomous vehicles in the years to come.

Don’t be fooled, though. These are still advertisements for the company. They just happen to be some of the most informative advertisements you’re likely to come across.

The safety report, which is available for perusal, splits Waymo’s definition of autonomous safety into five categories. It then explains how the tech firm addresses each one. The report cover everything from how the car makes driving decisions to ensuring there are adequate backups and technological redundancies to ensure a system failure won’t result in a crash.

Equally important, the report details the company’s existing sensor system — explaining what each lump of hardware is responsible for. It also gives a shorthand play-by-play of how its vehicles go about accomplishing a task and how the environment influences decisions.

While it may be a bit basic for experts, the document does provide a more inclusive look into autonomous technology and the company’s specific approach to it. Of course, that was always the point. Waymo is taking a very specific marketing path and, despite being a little dry, it’s likely the only way to truly ease consumer fretting. Getting into its extensive testing, validation processes, and various partnerships with advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and The National Safety Council wasn’t necessary. But it plants the seed into your brain that Waymo is doing more, doing it smarter, and doing it safer than its competition.

Whether or not that is the case, the company is offering transparency and an opportunity for the public to understand the technology better. That, in itself, ought to serve it well.

“Education begins with awareness, so we’re beginning this campaign with a series of digital and outdoor advertising campaigns in Arizona,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a statement earlier this week. “Our hope is to grow this conversation into a national dialogue and provide opportunities for people to get up close with this technology.”

Waymo’s educational campaign is anticipated to coincide with the launch its first commercial ride-hailing service. Expected later this fall, the company’s self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans will engage in a testbed ride-haling service. However, Arizonians should be able to ride in one at the aforementioned outdoor events free of charge.

[Images: Waymo]

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  • Steve65 Steve65 on Oct 13, 2017

    I'm not anxious about fully automated cars. I just see no evidence that such a thing can be done in my lifetime. 90% automated? Sure. But that last ten percent is always the part that gets you Driving around dry well marked streets in the daytime is comparatively easy. Get back to me when you've got something that can do an unmarked one lane road on a rainy night

    • Brn Brn on Oct 14, 2017

      When 80, I'll take one that only works in nice weather. My goal is to stay the heck out of a health care facility. I don't think I could live like that. If a 90% vehicle can help, gimmie.

  • ClutchCarGo ClutchCarGo on Oct 13, 2017

    And we know that they're serious about safety, because little red-headed girl.

  • Tassos I also want one of the idiots who support the ban to explain to me how it will work.Suppose sometime (2035 or later) you cannot buy a new ICE vehicle in the UK.Q1: Will this lead to a ICE fleet resembling that of CUBA, with 100 year old '56 Chevys eventually? (in that case, just calculate the horrible extra pollution due to keeping 100 year old cars on the road)Q2: Will people be able to buy PARTS for their old cars FOREVER?Q3: Will people be allowed to jump across the Channel and buy a nice ICE in France, Germany (who makes the best cars anyway), or any place else that still sells them, and then use it in the UK?
  • Tassos Bans are ridiculous and undemocratic and smell of Middle Ages and the Inquisition. Even 2035 is hardly any better than 2030.The ALMIGHTY CONSUMER should decide, not... CARB, preferably WITHOUT the Government messing with the playing field.And if the usual clueless idiots read this and offer the tired "But Government subsidizes the oil industry too", will they EVER learn that those MINISCULE (compared to the TRILLIONS of $ size of this industry) subsidies were designed to help the SMALL Oil producers defend themselves against the "Big Oil" multinationals. Ask ANY major Oil co CEO and he will gladly tell you that you can take those tiny subsidies and shove them.
  • Dusterdude The suppliers can ask for concessions, but I wouldn’t hold my breath . With the UAW they are ultimately bound to negotiate with them. However, with suppliers , they could always find another supplier ( which in some cases would be difficult, but not impossible)
  • AMcA Phoenix. Awful. The roads are huge and wide, with dedicated lanes for turning, always. Requires no attention to what you're doing. The roads are idiot proofed, so all the idiots drive - they have no choice, because everything is so spread out.
  • Leonard Ostrander Pet peeve: Drivers who swerve to the left to make a right turn and vice versa. They take up as much space as possible for as long as possible as though they're driving trailer trucks or school busses. It's a Kia people, not a Kenworth! Oh, and use your turn signals if you ever figure out where you're going.