Recently, Waymo rolled out fully driverless vehicles to pre-approved riders living in suburban Arizona. Ed Niedermeyer has a great article (and video) in TechCrunch.
My former boss, and Voyage CEO, Oliver Cameron is a bit astounded that this event has passed with barely a ripple in the news cycle, as am I.
The lack of attention is, in some ways, a good thing.
Suburban Arizona residents haven’t gotten upset, there’s been relatively little news to make of the whole event, and so far none of the riders (who are under NDA) have found a reason to make a big deal over this.
One of questions Niedermeyer ponders is what threshold Waymo crossed that finally allowed for driverless vehicles, albeit in a tightly geofenced area.
“Waymo’s decision to put me in a fully driverless car on public roads anywhere speaks to the confidence it puts in its ‘driver,’ but the company wasn’t able to point to one specific source of that confidence….
‘Autonomous driving is complex enough not to rely on a singular metric,’ Panigrahi said.
It’s a sensible, albeit frustrating, argument, given that the most significant open question hanging over the autonomous drive space is ‘how safe is safe enough?’”
I’m not so sure I agree with Niedermeyer that the argument is “sensible”. Waymo’s response to the key question of what makes its vehicles safe enough to be driverless is, essentially, “trust us”.
And so far that works, at least for Waymo, which has done virtually everything right and caused no significant injuries, much less fatalities, in its ten years of existence.
Were Waymo to continue that trend indefinitely into the future, “trust us”, would continue to suffice.
Presumably, though, as Waymo ramps up miles and riders, collisions and injuries will happen. At that point, “trust us” probably won’t seem so sensible.
But all of that is in a hypothetical future. For now, I think it’s okay to celebrate and revel in what humanity is accomplishing.