The CEO of Alphabet’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) self-driving car unit Waymo went out of his way to promote the safety of its versions of these vehicles. He was speaking at the National Automobile Dealers Association, one of the industry’s largest gathers. The comments come just days after an Uber self-driving car killed a woman, and after Toyota (NYSE: TM) suspended its self-driving car experiments
Among the things CEO John Krafcik said, according to several media outlets was “At Waymo, we have a lot of confidence that our technology would be able to handle a situation like that.” He was referring to the Uber incident.
Waymo can make the case that its cars have spent more time and driven more miles than most, if not all self-driving cars. What has to be left unexplored, at least for the moment, is whether this means anything in terms of safety. Waymo’s fleet recently reached five million miles driven by its experimental vehicles. On February 27, management reported:
The Waymo odometer rolled over to 5,000,000 in February: our self-driving cars have now covered five million miles on public roads.
That’s a major milestone. Yet what’s really exciting for us is how we’re picking up speed. Our 1st million miles took six years to complete. Our 4th million miles took six months, and this 5th million took just under three months. Today we’re driving as many miles in one day as the average American adult drives in a whole year.
We’re driving more and learning faster, and we’re doing it in increasingly diverse conditions. We’ve now test driven in 25 U.S. cities, gaining experience in different weather conditions and terrains: from the snowy streets of Michigan, to the steep hills of San Francisco, to the desert conditions of Greater Phoenix. And because the lessons we learn from one vehicle can be shared with the entire fleet, every new mile counts even more.
Waymo cannot claim it has a clean record. One of its self-driving cars was involved in an accident last August. And, its vehicles have been involved in several small accidents
Is the Waymo claim about its superior technology right? No one knows