Waymo, the autonomous driving technology unit of Alphabet Inc’s, has announced that it has completed over 700,000 fully autonomous trips for ride hailers so far this year. This milestone is significant for Waymo, especially amidst growing concerns about the safety of autonomous vehicles.
The company took to social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, to express its gratitude to Waymo One riders for their participation in these autonomous trips. Waymo Chief Product Officer Saswat Panigrahi also acknowledged the achievement and mentioned that there is still more work to be done to ensure the safe scaling of their technology. However, Panigrahi expressed excitement about welcoming more riders in more locations in 2024.
This milestone comes at a time when the autonomous vehicle (AV) industry is facing increased skepticism. Recently, several unions and labor groups wrote to the US Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), urging them to conduct open investigations into automated vehicle operators, including Waymo, Zoox, and Beep. These groups cited serious safety concerns with autonomous driving technology.
The letter emphasized the need for federal regulation and leadership to address the safety issues surrounding AV operations. The unions believe that the current state of autonomous vehicle technology poses threats to other road users and called for updated policies to ensure the safety of all.
The AV industry faced further criticism when a Cruise AV, an autonomous vehicle operated by Cruise, was involved in an accident in early October. In this incident, a human-driven vehicle collided with a pedestrian, causing the pedestrian to be thrown onto the ground in the path of the AV. The AV made contact with the pedestrian, dragging them forward for about 20 feet. As a result, Cruise halted all operations in the US.
These incidents highlight the ongoing challenges and concerns associated with autonomous driving technology. While Waymo’s achievement of 700,000 fully autonomous trips is commendable, it also emphasizes the need for continuous improvement and development in the AV industry.
As the industry moves forward, it is crucial for autonomous vehicle operators to prioritize safety and address the concerns raised by unions and labor groups. Collaboration between regulatory bodies, industry leaders, and the public will be essential to establish effective regulations and ensure the safe and responsible deployment of autonomous driving technology.
Overall, Waymo’s milestone achievement is a testament to the progress made in autonomous driving technology. However, it also serves as a reminder that there is still much work to be done to address safety concerns and gain public trust in this emerging industry.