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What If's

What if self-driving, autonomous, or driverless vehicles are involved in a crash?

Waymo can detect when it has been involved in a collision and will notify the Waymo operations center automatically.

Waymo will also determine an appropriate response, including pulling over or coming to a safe stop. Then Waymo’s trained specialists can initiate post-crash procedures, which include interacting with law enforcement and first responders and sending members of Waymo’s team to the location. Waymo’s operations center also has rider support specialists who can communicate directly with passengers through Waymo’s in-vehicle audio system. Learn more about how Waymo tests crash scenarios and uses crash data to constantly improve safety.

What if there is a system failure or fault with a self-driving, autonomous, or driverless vehicle?

Waymo is equipped with a series of backups for critical systems, such as sensors, computing, and braking.

How Waymo responds differs based on the type of roadway where a situation occurs, the current traffic conditions, and the extent of the technology failure. Depending on these factors, the system will determine an appropriate response to keep the vehicle and its passengers safe, including pulling over or coming to a safe stop.

Can self-driving, autonomous, or driverless vehicles operate in extreme heat or cold?

Waymo’s autonomous driving technology allows vehicles to operate reliably and safely in extreme cold and oppressive heat. Waymo engineers have developed both autonomous driving hardware and software in-house to create a complete system that can work reliably in the toughest environments.

Waymo is Equipped with Cooling Systems

Heat poses challenges for all modern technology. Everyday electronics like cell phones can overheat and switch off when used in the bright sun. However, Waymo’s autonomous driving technology system needs to operate safely even in hot conditions. Waymo vehicles are equipped with a special cooling system that lets them operate under very hot temperatures, even with an engine running at full power and systems at full capacity.

Waymo’s engineers perform extensive testing in a wind tunnel that can mimic almost any weather condition, including the hottest temperatures ever recorded on Earth.

In addition to wind tunnel testing, Waymo has tested its autonomous vehicle in three of America’s hottest places: Las Vegas, Davis Dam, and Death Valley. The Davis Dam, on the Arizona and Nevada border, has long stretches of steep desert road for Waymo to drive under the hot sun. The Las Vegas Strip lets Waymo test its systems in countless busy lanes of stop-and-go city traffic under intense heat. Death Valley holds the record for the highest officially recorded temperature on Earth of 134°F.

During testing, Waymo closely monitors its systems, taking over 200 different measurements per second to confirm that its in-house sensor suite and computers keep working as intended.

What happens if self-driving, autonomous, or driverless vehicles are exposed to extreme weather or conditions?

Autonomous vehicles, like their conventional counterparts, must operate reliably. That means the vehicle and each of its individual components must function under extreme environmental conditions and over the lifetime of the vehicle.

Waymo engineers design unique stress tests. Using their knowledge of the physics of failure to accelerate environmental stresses on the Waymo vehicle and its individual components, they compress years of real-world use into days and weeks of testing.

UV Radiation, Earthquakes, Salt, and Humidity

Engineers blast Waymo’s components with ultraviolet radiation, bombard them with powerful water jets, dunk them into nearly freezing vats of water, corrode them in chambers full of salty mist, shake and shock them with powerful vibrations to simulate earthquakes, and heat and freeze them for weeks at a time in temperature and humidity chambers. They analyze any failures and make design improvements to increase the reliability of Waymo’s components. They monitor the health of each sensor, and the vehicle itself, so they can identify and fix potential failures before they occur.