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Waymo’s autonomous cars steer clear of any potential election unrest

Waymo has taken its autonomous cars off the streets of San Francisco and placed them in a secure location to ensure they don’t get caught up in any election-related unrest that may occur.

Transdev, Waymo’s fleet operations vendor, told The Verge that the company had decided to temporarily pause testing of its self-driving vehicles until Thursday.

Chris Cheung, general manager at Transdev North America, said the vehicles will be safely stored at a secure location in Mountain View, California, for the next couple of days. Mountain View is home to Waymo’s parent company, Alphabet, and is located about 30 miles from downtown San Francisco.

Cheung added that the decision had been made “out of an abundance of caution ahead of some of the planned protests around the general election.”

Waymo cars that are already based in Mountain View will, however, continue operating as usual on the streets there. Its fleet in Phoenix, Arizona, will also stay on the road this week.

Waymo’s autonomous cars are already highly advanced, with an onboard suite of cameras, sensors, and powerful software able to safely handle a wide range of occurrences on the road in front. Streets filled with demonstrators, however, could end up blocking the vehicles, preventing them from going anywhere while also leaving them exposed to potential damage, and so the company has decided to temporarily remove them some streets.

It’s not the first time in 2020 that Waymo has decided to take its self-driving vehicles off the street. Earlier this year, it suspended operations for several months as part of safety measures taken in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Even when Waymo’s cars are off the road, the team can still keep working. That’s because a good chunk of the research includes running driving simulations on computers, in which one day in simulation is equivalent to 100 years of real-world driving, according to Waymo.

Whether or not the vehicles are on the road testing the company’s technology in real-world scenarios, Waymo continues to drive around 20 million miles every day in simulation as it continues its work to refine its autonomous systems.

Waymo has made significant progress over the years, and is currently testing a ridesharing service in Phoenix that has no backup driver behind the wheel.

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Trevor Mogg
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