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Waymo just announced that it reached 8,000,000 miles of self-driving on public roads, a pace that has been accelerating since 2009. Waymo’s autonomous vehicles are reportedly driving 25,000 miles per day on public roads. The company has 600 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Minivans driving in 25 cities, and they rely on simulation to help build its AI self-driving system. The simulation has allowed the AI system to drive all day, everyday, and has logged more than 5 billion miles on the simulation. Experience is key to make sure AI software is constantly learning how to react to different scenarios.
These milestones that Waymo is achieving show that it is one step closer to launching a commercial driverless transportation service. The company plans to launch the service later this year. This achievement would be a step forward in the nascent driverless car market that many large automotive and technology companies are trying to crack, in an effort to differentiate themselves in the hyper-competitive automotive market. The Brookings Institute has estimated that more than $80 billion was invested in the self-driving car market from August 2014 to June 2017.
In addition to advancements in AI technology, sentiment towards self-driving vehicles is also shifting around the globe. According to the 2018 Deloitte Global Automotive Consumer Study, consumers may be more comfortable with the concept of autonomous vehicles. For example, the study found that in the U.S., 47% of consumers surveyed feel that autonomous cars will not be safe, which is down from last year’s 74%. In South Korea, 54% of those surveyed believe that self-driving cars will not be safe, versus 81% last year. Although almost half of consumers surveyed still believe that self-driving cars are unsafe, there is growing faith in the technology among consumers.
In contrast, a Brookings Institute survey of 2,066 adult internet users found that only 21% percent of those respondents were willing to ride in an autonomous vehicle. The stark difference between perception of safety and willingness of a consumer to actually risk riding in an autonomous vehicle is something to keep an eye on as milestones continue to be reached in the self-driving car space. The success of companies like Waymo may rely heavily on public perception and willingness to participate in the autonomous vehicle market, but they are continuing to improve their technology and trying to win the confidence of the global consumer.
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