Waymo's virtual autonomous cars cover 10 million miles daily

Thanks to the wonders of simulation, Waymo is racking up an incredible number of virtual test miles on a daily basis, and plenty in the real world, too.

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
2 min read

At our visit to Waymo's Castle testing grounds this week, the place where the former Google Self-Driving Car Project comes out to play, CEO John Krafcik gave us the latest update on just how much ground the project has covered this far. No surprise, it's an awful lot.

In the real world, Waymo's autonomous cars -- including its former Lexus SUVs and its newer Pacifica Hybrid minivans -- have covered 3.5 million miles of autonomous driving. That's 3.5 million miles under their own guidance, or roughly equivalent to 140 times around the globe at the equator.

Waymo's autonomous Pacifica cruising through Castle

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To put that in another perspective, your average American driver covers just under 14,000 miles a year. If someone were lucky enough to rack up those kinds of miles for 70 years, they'd net just over a million miles. Waymo's cars have already done more than three times that, all with the goal of "building the world's most experienced driver."

But there's another side to the testing, which is simulated miles. In simulations, virtual Waymo cars can run test after test after test in digital environments, reading in data gathered from the real world and then trying out various subtle tweaks to autonomous behavior, calculating and evaluating the results. Every day Waymo's cars cover a whopping 10 million virtual miles in this way. The company netted 2.5 billion miles in 2016 alone, and they have 25,000 virtual cars hitting the digital streets.

Of course, we live and drive on more tangible streets, and so the Waymo van's performance in the real world is what counts. How does it fare? Check out our full report to find out. 

Watch this: Five things you need to know about the Waymo's autonomous playground