Safety at Waymo | Self-driving cars & other road users

By: Deborah Hersman, Chief Safety Officer

We were founded a decade ago on a mission to make our roads safer. Since then, we’ve been focused on building the world’s most experienced driver. Safely sharing the road is an important part of driving, and the Waymo driver tirelessly scans for objects around the vehicle — including pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles, road workers, animals, and obstructions — and then predicts their future movements based on information such as speed, trajectory, and road context.

Over that time we’ve driven more than 10 million miles on the road, 7 billion miles in simulation and created a library of thousands of scenarios that capture safe, desired behavior of our vehicles in complex situations. In the first of our series, we’ll focus on how our self driving cars safely navigate around other road users like cyclists on the road. Our vehicles are designed to understand that different types of road users will not behave in the same way; pedestrians, for example, can change direction suddenly. We captured an example of our cars recognizing and responding to school children, taking additional caution to ensure their safety.

Our technology is able to perceive and accurately classify different road users which, in turn, allows our self driving vehicles to predict their behavior. Our path planning software then interprets this information to chart the safest driving path, many times per second.

Every year, nearly 50,000 cyclists are injured on American roads. As we work to build the world’s most experienced driver, we’re putting considerable thought and engineering into ensuring our vehicles can understand cyclists’ unique behavior and are ready to act with their safety and protection top of mind. In this video, a Waymo vehicle sees a cyclist and predicts that the rider will shift out of the bike lane to get around a parked trailer. Our Waymo driver is designed to drive defensively around cyclists to help prevent the common collision scenarios that occur between cyclists and human drivers every day.

Learn more about how our self-driving car sees and understands its environment in our Safety Report.