Waymo, a key player in the autonomous vehicle world, has released a video highlighting how its 360° system works, and it’s pretty cool.
Autonomous vehicles (AV) have been under intense public and news media scrutiny lately. Rightfully so, as a few accidents and very public lawsuits would prompt that. In order to nip in the bud any negative image around self-driving cars, Alphabet’s Waymo wants to educate the public about the technology.
In order to do that, it released a good video showing exactly how its self-driving system works.
In a nutshell, Waymo’s system relies on a few sensor arrays, including computer vision, lidar, radar, and cameras. But all of this is hardware — making sense of the data is where things really happen. This video really shows how a Waymo vehicle senses and represents the world around itself. It not only recognizes obstacles and makes a landscape representation of the environment around itself but it also has to predict the movement of any given object at a distance of up to 300 yards at any given time, anywhere, anywhen. That is a task we’d rather have a serious web of intelligence handle rather than a one-point decision factor.
Testing New Technology Today
New technologies demand different ways of approaching the public and being delivered to the public. Alphabet has been working on that. Today it is using the 5 million autonomous miles driven on real city streets to gather data. And in order to speed up development, it is also virtualizing the development. This way, Waymo makes good use of developing its vision on virtual simulations, which cuts back on physical research. Couple this to a private test track and you can almost instantaneously test the result of your simulations.
All in all, Waymo already clocked 2.7 billion miles in the virtual world by the end of 2017. It hopes to show that AVs can be driven as many miles an the average current American does a year. Considering that the first million miles took no less than 6 years to reach, it should be highlighted that the last ones took only 3 months. So far, Waymo’s daily average fleet mileage is about what the average adult drives in an entire year.
AV — Yay or Nay?
It’s incredible to think that a single accident could potentially set back the industry severely. Waymo considers that given but reminds us that 1.25 million deaths occurred worldwide due to vehicle crashes in 2014, 32,675 deaths in the U.S. due to vehicle crashes that same year, and a 6% increase in traffic fatalities in 2016 currently puts us at the highest point in nearly a decade. AVs could potentially help us avoid 94% of human-involved crashes due to human choice/error in the US. The list on Waymo’s website goes on and is sobering. US fatalities associated with human choice or error in 2014: 9,262 speeding, 9,967 alcohol related, 3,179 distraction, and 846 drowsiness.
Not too surprisingly, EV adoption and previous tech adoption have taught us that market acceptance happens in waves, from early adopters to mainstream. AVs won’t be any different. The bleeding edge will adopt it quickly and the Millennial generation (and the one after that) will have no problem using them regularly. So far, it’s difficult to blanket an entire population made up of different segments as to whether or not they trust self-driving cars or not. Some parts will, others won’t, and they will be closely related to age and demographics.
If you want to see what it feels like in a VR/AR environment, Waymo is making the experience available on desktops, mobiles, and its VR headset. You can follow the company on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Medium, and Google +.
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