Waymo pitted its autonomous vehicles against a virtual superhuman driver to see which was safer

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Waymo’s latest effort to beryllium that autonomous vehicles are safer than silly, accident-prone humans involves creating a virtual practice of a hyper-attentive operator and past pitting this fake idiosyncratic against its ain AVs successful a bid of simulated tests to spot which is amended astatine clang avoidance.

(Not to spoil it oregon anything, but the Waymo conveyance did better.)

Improved information has been 1 of the main predictions of the autonomous conveyance (AV) industry. With millions of radical dying successful car crashes globally each year, AV operators are progressively leaning connected this information lawsuit to spur regulators to walk authorities allowing much afloat autonomous vehicles connected the road. But portion the statement seems convincing connected the aboveground — AVs don’t get drunk oregon distracted similar humans, nor bash they velocity oregon interruption the instrumentality — determination is scant information that proves that fully automated vehicles are safer than quality drivers.

Improved information has been 1 of the main predictions of the AV industry

To supply much statistical enactment for its argument, Waymo produced 2 caller technological papers comparing autonomous conveyance show to quality driving. The archetypal analyzes and models effect times erstwhile a clang is imminent, portion the different “presents a caller methodology to measure however good autonomous driving systems debar crashes.”

The caller methodology involves creating a exemplary of “the effect clip and evasive enactment of a quality operator that is non-impaired, with eyes ever on the struggle (NIEON).” In different words, dissimilar a mean quality operator who experiences fatigue and distraction, this virtual superhuman operator is ever attentive, ne'er gets bushed oregon distracted, and is ever acceptable to react. Waymo is calling the benignant of investigation the archetypal of its kind.

Waymo past simulated a fig of antithetic imminent-crash scenarios to comparison the NIEON operator to its ain autonomous vehicles. Predictably, the superhuman operator was precise bully astatine preventing collisions, avoiding 62.5 percent of the simulated crashes and reducing the hazard of superior wounded successful 84 percent of the situations.

But contempt that admirable performance, the Waymo conveyance did better, avoiding 75 percent of collisions and reducing superior wounded hazard by a whopping 93 percent.


“We consistently outperform this precocious barroom of quality performance,” Trent Victor, Waymo’s manager of information research, told The Verge.

Predicting however quality drivers respond erstwhile a clang is astir to hap has been a situation for generations of postulation information researchers. Response clip is usually measured successful controlled experiments, wherever subjects are instructed to respond to stimuli specified arsenic a dependable oregon a brake light. 

“We consistently outperform this precocious barroom of quality performance”

The cardinal question successful effect clip studies is erstwhile to “start the clock”: from which constituent bash you cipher the absorption time? This becomes adjacent much important successful a naturalistic mounting wherever pedestrians and cyclists bash not ever behave successful a predictable way. Many accepted methods for determining absorption clip bash not relationship for a consciousness of urgency. They thin to overestimate drivers’ absorption clip by assuming they respond slower successful fast-moving situations oregon faster successful slow-moving situations.

But Waymo approached the occupation differently. In its study, it decided to commencement the timepiece astatine the infinitesimal erstwhile the operator is amazed oregon erstwhile their expectations are broken.

“In urgent events, drivers respond arsenic accelerated arsenic possible,” Victor said. “And they bash that due to the fact that they’re precise surprised.”

Using information from much naturalistic driving studies, Waymo said it created an interior benchmark for collision avoidance that exceeds the emblematic driver. This gave it a caller mode to measure the show of its automated driving system, which it calls the Waymo Driver.

Previously, the institution had sought to measurement the information of its AVs by simulating dozens of real-world fatal crashes that took spot successful Arizona implicit astir a decade. The Google spinoff discovered that replacing either conveyance successful a two-car collision with its robot-guided vehicles would astir destruct each deaths.

Waymo decided to instrumentality things a measurement further

But Waymo decided to instrumentality things a measurement further. Since it didn’t cognize however galore of those real-world crashes progressive drunk, impaired, oregon overly fatigued driving, the institution decided to make a exemplary of a superhuman operator who ne'er got bushed oregon drunk and was ever attentive with their eyes connected the road. And utilizing its caller benchmark successful effect clip measurement, Waymo re-simulated the crashes successful its erstwhile survey to spot however this operator would respond.

The superhuman operator performed truly well, but the Waymo Driver did amended — sometimes by wholly avoiding collisions altogether by conscionable being amended than adjacent the champion quality driver.

There’s nary modular attack for evaluating AV safety. A caller survey by RAND concluded that, successful the lack of a framework, customers are astir apt to spot the authorities — adjacent though US regulators look contented to fto the backstage assemblage dictate what’s safe. In this vacuum, Waymo hopes that by publicizing this data, policymakers, researchers, and adjacent different companies whitethorn statesman to instrumentality connected the task of processing a cosmopolitan framework.

Victor said some studies person been peer-reviewed and volition beryllium submitted to a diary for publication. “We’re pursuing the mode the technological process works,” helium said. “So past it’s up to others to remark and bash probe based disconnected of that.”