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Waymo's New Feature Scans for Cyclists, Other Cars to Prevent Accidents

Safe Exit is designed to prevent riders in self-driving cars from dooring others on the road.

Abrar Al-Heeti Video producer / CNET
Abrar Al-Heeti is a video host and producer for CNET, with an interest in internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. Before joining the video team, she was a writer for CNET's culture team. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
Expertise Abrar has spent her career at CNET breaking down the latest trends on TikTok, Twitter and Instagram, while also reporting on diversity and inclusion initiatives in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Credentials
  • Named a Tech Media Trailblazer by the Consumer Technology Association in 2019, a winner of SPJ NorCal's Excellence in Journalism Awards in 2022 and has twice been a finalist in the LA Press Club's National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.
Abrar Al-Heeti

Waymo, the self-driving car company under Google parent Alphabet, equips its vehicles with a suite of sensors to navigate city streets without a driver. But those sensors are also helping riders know when it's safe to get out of the car to prevent dooring incidents.  

A new feature called Safe Exit alerts Waymo passengers at the end of a ride if there's an oncoming car, cyclist or pedestrian. Screens at the front and back of the car will show a warning and map of what's approaching, and there's also an audio alert so you'll know to wait before opening the door. Safe Exit uses a combination of lidar, radar and cameras to constantly monitor the car's surroundings and detect what's coming.

Similar warning technology exists in nonautonomous cars to keep passengers safe. Kia, for instance, has a Safe Exit Assist feature that'll also notify drivers if there's a car or cyclist approaching. But Waymo's sensor system can see farther and give an earlier heads-up, the company says.

Waymo is currently testing and operating its fully autonomous ride-hailing service in San Francisco, Phoenix and Los Angeles. The goal is to use data gathered in these cities to help the company roll out in other places, too.

I went for a ride in one of Waymo's autonomous ride-hailing cars to test the new feature and see how it performs on the streets of San Francisco. You can check out that experience and my thoughts in the video above.