Four million miles down, unlimited potential to go. Waymo’s fleet of self-driving cars has officially reached the four-million-mile mark in about eight years of total operation. And in the coming months, the company will launch a self-driving taxi service in Phoenix, Arizona, for the public to use.
The pace of those self-driving miles has accelerated, and that has led to the first self-driving taxi service. The first one million miles logged took 18 months; it took just six months to reach the last million.
Waymo said Monday it would take the average American driver 300 years to drive the same distance its self-driving fleet has covered since 2009. And for every mile, Alphabet’s self-driving car subsidiary collects precious data needed to roll out self-driving cars to the public. Recently, Waymo announced its self-driving cars no longer feature a human backup driver at all.
At launch, Waymo’s taxi service will place an employee in the back seat to monitor the car’s behavior, but eventually, the company will remove the human eyes altogether. Riders will use a button to halt the car’s operation if anything goes awry.
The company has tested its self-driving cars in 23 U.S. cities thus far, but the real tests will be in the Midwest and East Coast regions. Right now, the four million real-world miles have mostly covered dry climates. Snow, freezing temperatures, and ice will provide new challenges for self-driving cars.
In addition to the four million miles collectively driven, Waymo said its fleet has racked up 2.5 billion simulated miles inn the past year alone to expose 25,000 virtual cars and its self-driving technology to instances previously encountered on public roads. The virtual cars also re-drive the miles the actual cars have already driven to accelerate the pace of learning.