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Waymo CEO: Our self-driving cars are safe

The CEO of Waymo, the driverless car division of Google parent company Alphabet, said his company's driverless cars a...

Posted: Mar 28, 2018 9:33 AM
Updated: Mar 28, 2018 9:33 AM

The CEO of Waymo, the driverless car division of Google parent company Alphabet, said his company's driverless cars are safe.

After a fatal accident involving an Uber driverless car in Arizona last week, several companies have suspended testing on public roads, including Toyota, Nvidia and Uber itself.

But Waymo is still testing its cars in Arizona and elsewhere.

In fact, Waymo isn't just testing otherwise empty cars with someone in the driver's seat ready to take over in an instant. The company is giving rides to selected Arizona residents in self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans with no-one at all in the driver's seat.

"Our confidence stems from the fact that we've been working on this for so long and we've been focused throughout this mission on ensuring the safety of the cars and the technology," Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in an interview with CNN.

Krafcik's confidence lies, especially, in Waymo's software. Just as any car can be dangerous with a bad driver behind the wheel, no matter how good the brakes and airbags are, even the best cameras and sensors can't make a safe driverless car without smart software running it all.

Driving the Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV

Waymo says it's working to build "the world's most experienced driver." Krafcik boasts that Waymo has put its self-driving technology through 5 million miles of testing on public roads, in addition to 5 billion miles of computer simulation models and some 20,000 different tests on private proving grounds.

The resulting software adjustments and improvements are shared across Waymo's entire fleet of cars all over America. In this way, Waymo's computerized "driver" can gain years worth of experience in days or weeks.

The goal is to create a software "driver" that's better than any human driver. But how good is good enough?

"One and a quarter million people die every year [in car crashes.]" Krafcik said. "It's like a 737 crashing every hour of every day."

The vast majority of these crashes are caused by simple human error, including things like drunk driving and aggressive driving. The question is, how good should a software-based driver be before the technology is released on the world's roads. Should we wait until the software is perfect, or just until it's significantly better than the average human?

Krafcik said he wasn't sure.

"I think our job is to make things as safe as possible and to do our part to improve the situation that we have right now which is clearly not acceptable," he said.

Krafcik was speaking shortly after he unveiled Waymo's newest driverless a car, an autonomous version of the electric Jaguar I-Pace crossover SUV. Waymo bills it as the world's first driverless electric SUV.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 473413

Reported Deaths: 9214
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32339474
Hinds30703575
DeSoto29814346
Jackson23263336
Rankin21111358
Lee14600217
Madison14043265
Jones13165218
Forrest12953233
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Clarke277487
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Holmes259485
Smith243947
Yalobusha216747
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Greene204045
Lawrence203831
Perry196453
Amite193751
Webster191941
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Carroll159937
Tunica148434
Benton139433
Kemper137439
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Franklin115227
Quitman101825
Wilkinson99835
Jefferson86632
Sharkey62120
Issaquena1916
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 764839

Reported Deaths: 13048
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1089971721
Mobile698041173
Madison48181574
Baldwin35619445
Shelby35053289
Tuscaloosa32903508
Montgomery32475655
Lee21787203
Calhoun19941374
Morgan19234315
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Houston16028347
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Elmore13943241
Cullman13942234
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Talladega12307211
DeKalb11829226
Walker10171306
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Blount9357149
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Chilton6215129
Russell590154
Franklin561294
Chambers5211130
Dallas4610176
Marion4579114
Clarke449471
Pike448289
Geneva4223102
Winston404685
Lawrence4040101
Bibb394776
Barbour337067
Marengo319979
Monroe310346
Butler308483
Pickens298369
Randolph291655
Henry291455
Hale285281
Cherokee278249
Fayette270671
Washington242645
Crenshaw231664
Clay220761
Macon213254
Cleburne208746
Lamar186339
Conecuh176538
Lowndes168756
Coosa162531
Wilcox153934
Bullock146842
Perry134035
Sumter122935
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