COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the world, affecting people’s lives and forcing many businesses to suspend their operations. At Waymo, we’re actively monitoring the situation, taking steps to support our local communities, and contributing to COVID-19 response efforts. While Waymo has temporarily suspended its on-the-road operations as we put the health and safety of our riders, partners, and employees first, we are still driving our technology forward with our work in simulation.
Gaining 100+ years of experience in one day
Amplifying real-world miles
Not every mile is created equally. A driver has to make fewer decisions while driving on a highway than driving down the bustling streets of San Francisco. In simulation, we can pick the most interesting encounters from our over 20 million autonomous miles on public roads in 25 cities across the country to maximize the efficiency of our learning.
A big focus of the Waymo Simulation team is ensuring that our testing is representative of real world behavior. We have the benefit of millions of miles driven in the real world to validate and calibrate our simulation. As our software improves, the car’s position and behavior will change from the original logged scene. We ensure that as the Driver and scene evolve, we maintain realism by updating the environment around the Waymo Driver. That includes modeling agent behavior and using reactive agents–such as other cars, cyclists, pedestrians–who respond to the new position of our vehicle. We can also synthesize realistic sensor data for the car at its new position and model the scene in the updated environment.
Not only can we modify a given scenario in simulation, but we can also build entirely synthetic scenarios that we’ve never encountered in the real world, to understand how the Waymo Driver would perform. This way we continue to expand the number of miles we can simulate and validate while maintaining a high level of realism. It allows us to prepare for a range of common to rare situations and equip our software to handle them.
Before we make a change to our software, we put it through various stages of rigorous testing in simulation to assess our performance. While real-world driving is an essential part of our validation process, the majority of learning and development is done in simulation, well before the updated version of the Waymo Driver is rolled out in the real world. Through this iterative process, we can improve our software, enabling us to advance our fully self-driving technology quickly and safely.
Improving our rider experience
To improve our rider experience, we evaluate multiple comfort metrics in simulation. One approach to identify these scenarios is based on measuring the different ways people respond to the vehicle’s behavior in various driving scenarios. We use the feedback we get from our on-road testing to train machine learning models and then run them in simulation to validate how different scenarios influence rider comfort. Whether it’s figuring out the most comfortable braking speed or making sure the car drives smoothly, with simulation we continue optimizing our software for the comfort and safety of our riders.
A smooth transition to our new norm with powerful tools and infrastructure
|WFH takes on a new meaning with Waymo From Home — from our newest and youngest honorary Waymonauts working on “closed course testing” to our “new remote offices.”|
While traditionally, most of the tooling used for simulation requires engineers to be on powerful machines at their work stations, at Waymo, we build and use many technologies that enable more flexibility and fast development from anywhere. For example, having web versions of the most commonly used applications has allowed us to ensure that our engineers are productive while working from home and that we continue driving our technology forward in these unprecedented times. This software provides secured remote access to our engineers, loads quickly, boasts greater functionality and grants us more flexibility.
Even though we’re not currently driving in the real world, we’re continuing to gain thousands of years of experience through simulation during this time. While we can’t wait to get back on the road and start serving our Waymo One riders again, our Waymo Driver continues getting safer and smarter every second until then.
Join our team and help us build the World’s Most Experienced Driver™. Waymo is looking for talented software and hardware engineers, researchers, and out-of-the-box thinkers to help us tackle real-world problems, and make the roads safer for everyone. Come work with other passionate engineers and world-class researchers on novel and difficult problems—learn more at waymo.com/joinus.