Waymo’s Self-Driving Pacifica Minivans Recently Underwent “First Emergency Vehicle Testing Day”

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The self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans being used for testing by Waymo (Google) recently underwent their “first emergency vehicle testing day” — with the Chandler, Arizona Fire & Police Department — according to recent reports.

In other words, Waymo’s self-driving minivans were tested in scenarios meant to ensure that Waymo’s vehicles function safely alongside firetrucks, police cars, ambulances, motorcycles, etc.

While the regular “everyday” testing that Waymo does of course exposes the self-driving vehicles to real-world fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, etc., the recent “testing day” was entirely focused on the potential problem. The idea was to collect as much sensor data as possible — so as to ensure that emergency vehicles can be easily identified and responded to appropriately.

“The resulting data helps form a library from which Waymo can pull when training its vehicles on the proper behavior and set of responses to use when encountering ambulances and the like on real roads — obviously a key ingredient that needs to be addressed before public road tests can become commercial service deployments,” Tech Crunch notes.

“The new hardware on the Pacificas, which Waymo developed entirely in-house, includes audio sensors that can detect sirens up to twice as far away as the original set, Google says. The new vision, radar and LiDAR equipment can also see emergency vehicles further out than they were able to before, which helps explain why Waymo wanted to do a first day of dedicated testing with the new equipment: It’s going to be better able to observe emergency vehicle behavior in real-time and model appropriate paths and responses with this new kit.”

So, here’s yet more news seemingly showing that Waymo/Google is ahead of practically any other companies out there as regards certain aspects of self-driving vehicle tech development.

Related: Waymo’s Self-Driving Minivans Have Been Tested Extensively In Extreme Heat

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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