The 10 million miles Waymo's self-driving vehicles have driven in the real world is a feat in and of itself, but that figure is just a tiny fraction of what it has driven in simulation. At TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility, the Alphabet-owned company has revealed that it has driven over 10 billion virtual miles to test its technology. Waymo's simulation testing allows it to recreate multiple variations of real driving scenarios or to create completely new ones anytime it wants, so that its self-driving technology can learn without the risk of causing or encountering road traffic accidents.
The company runs the equivalent of 25,000 self-driving cars 24 hours a day in the simulation. Every time one of them learns something new from what it experiences, it will share its findings with the rest of the fleet. Of course, Waymo still needs to do more real-world driving, but the company believes simulation testing is a necessary step before launching and deploy self-driving technologies. Companies developing autonomous driving systems have to find creative ways to teach their technologies after all, seeing as only a small number of places allow self-driving vehicles to conduct testing on their roads.
Unfortunately, the company didn't share what exactly its system has learned from simulation testing. But Waymo's Chief Technology Officer Dmitri Dolgov said on stage during the event:
"The amount of driving you do in both of those is really a function of the maturity of your system, and the capability of the system. If you're just getting started, it doesn't matter, you're working on the basics so you can drive a few miles or tens of thousands of miles in the real world. But as you as the system matures, and you have a system that works great 99.99% of the time, it really requires very large-scale simulation, and very large-scale driving in the real world."