ThumbnailFor any emerging technology to be trusted, it helps to first be understood. In the past, people could see how their cars worked, looking under the hood and tinkering with them with the help of a user manual. In 2020, vehicles have so much technology that they’ve become difficult for the general public to comprehend. We want to change that. With this blog series, we’ll unpack the different parts of our technology stack to explain the fundamentals of self-driving technology. How does the Waymo Driver perceive the world? How does it learn to understand its surroundings? How can it predict the intentions of other drivers and pedestrians? And how does it keep our riders safe? We’re starting with one of the foundational questions: how does a self-driving car know where it is? 
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Imagine a tiny city where you control everything that happens on the streets. You manage how many cars zip down the roads and how fast they are going. You dictate how many cyclists are on a roundabout or whether they follow the road rules. The “weather” around the vehicle can change multiple times a day from blue skies and sunshine one minute to heavy rain showers the next, but only if you want it that way. One may say such a city doesn’t exist, but if you drive out to the middle of Merced County in California, you’ll find it at Castle, a former Air Force Base our team uses to help build the World’s Most Experienced Driver™. 
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The health and safety of our team is our top priority as we continue to navigate the global pandemic and gradually resume our driving operations. That’s why we’ve partnered with Verily, an Alphabet company focused on healthcare and life sciences, to provide integrated COVID-19 testing, symptom and exposure screening, and data analytics for our front-line team members and partners. Verily’s Healthy at Work program uses the best of current recommendations from federal, state and local authorities, and Verily’s operational, clinical, data science modeling and scientific testing capabilities. In addition to the rigorous COVID-19 safety protocols we’ve implemented, we believe that providing regular testing for our team, through Verily’s CLIA-certified lab in South San Francisco, will promote our high standards for workplace safety. 
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On August 26, we celebrated Women’s Equality Day. It marked the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote in the United States. It’s an important milestone in America’s history, though it wasn’t until 1965, when the Voting Rights Act passed allowing women of color to exercise their right to vote. This reminds us that over the past hundred years, there has been substantial progress toward gender equality, but the work is far from complete. At Waymo, equal opportunities are not just part of our culture, but are also an essential foundation for building truly inclusive technology and improving mobility for everyone.
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Last year around this time, I found myself on a racetrack in Hockenheim, Germany, at Formula Student Germany as a student on the MIT/Delft team. Formula Student is an international design competition, where students with various backgrounds, ranging from mechanical and software engineering to finance and marketing, join forces to design, build, and race a prototype self-driving racecar. This project was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life; seeing an idea transform from a concept pitch and a system architecture diagram to a car driving itself on a racetrack in Germany was extremely rewarding, but by no means easy.
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Back in 2016, we announced our very first OEM partner: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). Since then, we’ve worked closely with FCA to integrate our Waymo Driver into FCA vehicles, and together we’ve made self-driving history in the proven, capable, L4-ready Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan, including launching the first commercial autonomous ride-hailing service, beginning to offer fully driverless service to our riders, and driving in dozens of cities across diverse geographies and challenging weather conditions. Now, we’re pleased to share that we’ve strengthened our partnership with FCA in several important ways.
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In March 2020, we launched the Waymo Open Dataset Challenges, inviting researchers to build and test their machine learning models using Waymo’s diverse self-driving dataset. We received over 100 submissions from around the world and invited the winners to present their work at our virtual Workshop on Scalability in Autonomous Driving at CVPR 2020. Today, we are excited to introduce some of the winners and their learnings.
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