Waymo’s self-driving minivan is set to return to the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area, three months after the company stopped public testing of its autonomous vehicles due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Waymo plans to re-launch its own self-driving minivan fleet to the Bay Area streets on June 8, according to e-mail acquired by The Verge. However, instead of carrying passengers, the vehicle will instead focus on shipping packages to the non-profit organization #DrawTogether, which provides art equipment for children, and a Lighthouse for the Blind and Blind.
Transdev, who uses Waymo backup drivers for self-driving minivans, said in an email that they would call back some of his workers depending on “work skills, business needs, and seniority.” Delivery to a non-profit organization will only require one backup driver in each vehicle, and returning workers will undergo training sessions for new safety procedures that include social distance and disinfection.
“Soon San Franciscan will also start seeing some Waymo vehicles back on the road, and we are proud to provide charity delivery support to community partners,” a spokesman for the Alphabet-owned company confirmed with The Verge in a statement.
The delayed return to the Bay Area follows the Waymo restart of the testing program at Phoenix, because lock restrictions were appeased earlier this month. Likewise, the company implemented new safety measures for returning workers, all of whom were required to undergo training. Autonomous vehicles will also soon return to Detroit and Los Angeles.
Waymo self-driving driving simulation
While Waymo vehicles are parked, the company continues to develop autonomous vehicle technology through simulation, which already played a major role in its operations before the coronavirus outbreak.
One simulation day is equivalent to 100 years of driving in the real world, so most development work on new software starts with simulations before being launched into self-driving vehicles, according to Waymo. Driving in the real world is still important, but still limited.
In the simulation, Waymo can replay certain moments from 20 million miles of driving in the real world with a test vehicle. Passengers can also be simulated, with a machine learning model that attempts to predict how driving behavior will affect the passenger experience.
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