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Waymo's self-driving cars are racking up miles faster than ever

Waymo's self-driving cars are racking up miles faster than ever


Adding 100 minivans to the fleet has sped the pace way up

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Photo by Sean O’Kane / The Verge

Waymo announced on Twitter yesterday that the company’s fleet of autonomous cars has driven more than 3 million miles on public roads. Those miles were logged over the course of the last eight years in Mountain View, California; Austin, Texas; and Phoenix, Arizona, by everything from the company’s new self-driving minivans to its Lexus SUVs, and the tiny bug-like “Google Car,” too.

What’s important about Waymo’s milestone is the speed with which it logged the last million miles. It took seven years (2009–2016) to reach 2 million miles when the project was still a part of Google. Spinning the self-driving effort off into its own company in December — and adding 100 autonomous minivans to the fleet — seems to have accelerated things, because the project logged 1 million miles in the last seven months alone.

Waymo’s self-driving cars seem to be getting safer as they drive more miles, too. Data released by the California Department of Motor Vehicles in February showed a huge drop in the number of times that Waymo’s human engineers had to take control of the self-driving cars. That increase in safety likely played a role in the company’s recent decision to start offering people rides in its autonomous minivans in and around Phoenix, Arizona.

Overall, though, data has been harder to come by since the company was spun off from Google. Under Google, the project spent more than a year publishing monthly reports on its progress, including detailed accident reports. Since becoming Waymo, the project has shifted to releasing information in scattershot blog posts on Medium.

Tesla said last year that its customers have driven well over 100 million miles with the company’s semi-autonomous Autopilot feature active, by far the most by any company that’s working on this kind of technology. But Waymo’s miles are fully autonomous, something Tesla has not yet achieved. Whether it can sustain or even accelerate its testing efforts testing will hinge on whether state DMVs and Trump’s new transportation secretary remain kind to what companies like Waymo are doing.