Waymo shares some of its self-driving car data to help researchers

It's hoping this will advance self-driving cars and AI as a whole.

Self-driving car data is intensely valuable, and it's frequently considered one of Waymo's advantages -- it has more experience than virtually anyone. Now, however, the company is sharing some of that knowledge with the rest of the world. It's launching a Waymo Open Dataset that gives researchers free access to synced camera and LiDAR data from the company's autonomous vehicles across a variety of driving conditions and locales. It only covers 1,000 driving segments of 20 seconds each, but that's 200,000 frames per sensor, 12 million 3D object labels and 1.2 million 2D labels -- that could be a lot to work with.

The Waymo team explained this as an opportunity to improve the industry as a whole. It hoped he data would improve not just other self-driving vehicles, but also general concepts like perception, behavior prediction and scene understanding. Those could help with computer vision tasks, particularly robotics and other areas where recognizing objects could prove vital.

There's much more data Waymo isn't sharing, and it's not surprising that the company isn't sharing just how it processes sensor info -- that would be giving away a competitive edge. This is only the "first step" though, and Waymo said it was looking for input on how to make future data releases "more impactful." If nothing else, it could be useful both for existing self-driving companies that have gaps in their data or newcomers that could use a handful of data to get the ball rolling.