Waymo racks up 4 million self-driven miles

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Waymo continues to press its lead in terms of actual miles driven on roads, which is potentially the most important metric out there when it comes to building successful autonomous driving technology. The Alphabet-owned company that began life as Google’s self-driving car project around a decade ago now has 4 million miles driven autonomously on roads.

That 4 million miles represents the self-driving effort of Waymo’s entire test fleet, covering its original autonomous vehicles all the way up to its current driverless Chrysler Pacifica minivans, which are actually now testing on Arizona public roads, right alongside everyday human drivers, with no safety driver behind the wheel at all.

Waymo puts the milestone in perspective by noting that it would take a human around 300 years to drive that many miles, if they were driving at the average rate of a person in the U.S. today. Plus, the pace of Waymo’s accumulation of distance driven is ramping up: It managed to gain 1 million miles between just May and November of this year — it took the company six years to rack up its first million, by comparison.

This excludes the 2.5 billion miles that Waymo has “driven” virtually in simulation, and its private testing time on its Castle facility track. The number is one that Waymo isn’t likely to stop talking about anytime soon either — miles driven in real-world conditions is a key ingredient in building a comprehensive, virtual artificially intelligent driver that can operate in service of a commercial driverless ride-hailing service, which Waymo has set as the target for its first public driverless product deployment.