Waymo (Google’s self-driving division) is headed to NYC

Ricky S
3 min readNov 22, 2021

While you wont be able to hail an autonomous car just yet , you’ll likely see Waymo vehicles while they map the city’s complex traffic system

Waymo is headed to NYC, but just for testing for now. The self-driving car subsidiary of Alphabet has announced that it will begin mapping New York City. Waymos will begin cruising around Manhattan today, passing through the Lincoln Tunnel, visiting Times Square, driving through Central Park, and performing other typical touristy things in New York City.

Waymo is mapping New York City, not driving there automatically. At all times, safety drivers will be behind the wheel, manually managing the cars. The self-driving sensors, on the other hand, will be on full blast, scanning every nook and cranny of the company’s New York City territory in order to produce a thorough self-driving map. Waymo will then load the city data into a simulation to examine how the “Waymo Driver” software reacts to daily life in NYC once the map is complete. The company may then adjust, test, and develop its software in a secure manner.

Why hasn’t Waymo rolled out its self-driving service? One hypothesis is that Waymo appears to be the self-driving industry’s leader since it is the only firm that offers a public car-hailing service with no one behind the wheel. However, Waymo’s capabilities are severely constrained, and the company’s inability or refusal to scale is becoming a source of concern. Chandler, Arizona — a flat, basic, and weatherless suburb of Phoenix — is Waymo’s primary service region. While you definitely want to scale your self-driving service safely, Waymo Driver should work in similar locations if it’s good enough for Chandler. Waymo, on the other hand, appears to be in “learning” mode.

Waymo, on the other hand, is still progressing. The company has moved to San Francisco, where it is now offering a public ride-hailing service, albeit under the NDA-restricted “Trusted Tester” program — and with a safety driver in the driver’s seat. Waymo’s testing in New York City does not imply that the business will launch a self-driving service there anytime soon. Waymo claims to have “tested in dozens of cities spanning a varied variety of climates and topographies,” yet ride-hailing is still only available in small portions of San Francisco and Chandler.

Waymo claims to be preparing for the weather in New York City as well:

The weather also provides us with unique learning opportunities. The severe rain and dense snowfall we predict will add to the snow and rain driving we’ve done so far, giving us more opportunities to evaluate how our sensors work in wet, cold circumstances beyond our data augmentation and simulation testing. Experiencing slippery, snowy conditions will help Waymo Driver better in the real world, and we’ll apply what we’ve learned across our whole fleet.

Self-driving automobiles face a significant difficulty due to the weather. Precipitation can obstruct sensors and reflect lidar, resulting in erroneous readings and reduced vision. Weather testing is a big part of the company’s claim that it has visited “dozens of cities.” “Snowy Novi, Michigan; rainy Kirkland, Washington; foggy San Francisco; and, of course, those dusty haboobs in Phoenix, Arizona,” according to a 2019 Waymo blog post revealing testing during Miami’s hurricane season.

Waymo’s current strategy entails “manually driving five hybrid Chrysler Pacificas on the street during daylight hours,” according to the company. “Later, as we continue to learn from NYC’s hectic traffic and unique geometric features, we’ll personally drive several of our zero-emission Jaguar I-PACEs equipped with our latest technology on the same streets in Manhattan,” the business claims. “The knowledge we collect will help Waymo Driver better assess and predict the activities of other road users in congested metropolitan environments.”