SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Waymo, an autonomous vehicle company that operates a fleet of driverless cars in San Francisco, is touting its technology with a new study released on Wednesday.
The tech company said its study examined collision causation, and found that driverless Waymo cars are “significantly safer” than regular cars driven by humans.
“We’re sharing new research led by Swiss Re which shows Waymo’s autonomous vehicles are significantly safer than those driven by humans. In the over 3.8 million miles that Waymo drove without a human behind the steering wheel across San Francisco, CA and Phoenix, AZ, there were zero bodily injury claims,” the company’s spokesperson told KRON4.
On average, Waymo has about 100 vehicles driving around San Francisco at any given moment, a company representative told the California Public Utilities Commission. The CPUC recently gave a green light for Waymo to begin commercial driverless AV passenger service throughout the entire city around-the-clock with no limits on fleet size.
Ever since its vehicles were first deployed in 2020, Waymo has asserted that its technology makes roads safer. Unlike people, an AV “never gets drunk, tired, or distracted,” the company says.
Waymo, formerly known as the “Google Self-Driving Car Project,” is headquartered in Mountain View. The AV industry faced challenges in developing a robust and well-calibrated benchmark to compare cars with drivers, to cars without drivers.
The new study established a comparison benchmark based on liability insurance claims data compiled by Swiss Re. According to Waymo, the study showed AV cars reduced the frequency of property damage claims 76 percent.
“This cutting-edge study provides robust evidence that our ‘Driver’ is in fact reducing injuries on the streets of San Francisco,” said Mauricio Pena, Waymo’s chief safety officer.
Some San Franciscans have the opposite opinion about driverless cars from first-hand experiences.
Traffic incidents involving Waymo and Cruise cars unfold on a weekly basis. Over Labor Day weekend, a Waymo car was seen erratically weaving around traffic and pedestrians by Fisherman’s Wharf, according to witnesses. One witness told KRON4, “It passed me on the wrong side of the road. Then it got confused, then stopped right on the crosswalk.”
In May, a small dog was killed by a Waymo vehicle after it darted in front of the vehicle on Toland Street.
San Francisco’s city attorney, fire chief, supervisors, and public transportation officials are trying to hit the brakes on Cruise and Waymo’s fleets. They sent an urgent letter to the CPUC asking state regulators to limit the numbers of driverless cars navigating around the city. AV technology is simply not advanced enough, nor ready, for unlimited expansion, city leaders said.
The letter states that Waymo’s vehicles “have interfered with passenger and public safety, including through street interference incidents with first responder operations, public transit, street construction workers, and the flow of traffic generally. The continual occurrence of AV incidents indicates that the technical issues that have caused these incidents have not been resolved. San Francisco will suffer serious harm if Waymo is allowed expansion in the city with no limitations on geographic area, service hours and fleet size.”
According to data from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Waymo’s technology has resulted in less traffic incidents than Cruise. In February, Cruise had 19 traffic incidents while Waymo had 10. In March, Cruise had 59 incidents, compared to Waymo’s 34. In April, Cruise had 57 and Waymo had 30.