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Waymo offers a look behind the scenes of its Phoenix AV pilot

The program has been running for over a year now.


Most pictures you see of Waymo's self-driving pilot program in Phoenix involve the cars rolling around town. But there's a whole lot going on behind the scenes, and Google's sister company is finally offering us a peek behind that curtain.

Waymo put out a new Medium post today, outlining how its operation centers handle its fleet of self-driving cars when they're not on the road. At Waymo's garage, for example, a group of technicians ensure every sensor on the car is in tip-top shape before it's sent out for duty. This is especially important now that Waymo's vehicles operate without safety drivers, who could act as a backup if the hardware encounters issues.

I wonder if the techs get tired of staring at the exact same vehicle over and over again, ad nauseam.


Most of Waymo's blog post focuses on the ancillary support provided by its fleet management team. There are dispatchers that make sure the correct number of vehicles are out on roadways, while also managing Waymo's mapping vehicles and vehicles testing new features.

In the event one of Waymo's self-driving minivans requires some help, there's also a team of responders who act as a failsafe. Waymo gave an example with construction -- if the vehicle sees a road ahead is closed, it will call on the responders to verify that the road is closed. If that's the case, the vehicle will then calculate an alternate route while the responders beam that information to every other local Waymo vehicle to prevent additional cars heading toward a closed road.

Of course, Waymo's support team works with actual people, in addition to its fleet of self-driving cars. There's a whole staff dedicated to supporting the riders, who can call on an actual person with the push of an in-car button. Whether the questions cover playing music in the cabin or retrieving an item left in a car, Waymo's also dedicated to making sure the human element of the trip is as looked-after as possible.