By Sasha Lekach
Waymo is finally opening up.
The autonomous vehicle company, which is owned by Google parent Alphabet, released several hours of self-driving footage on Wednesday. It’s a rare move for a company that keeps most of its data close to its chest.
The Waymo Open Dataset contains 1,000 pieces of footage from self-driving tests in California, Washington, and Arizona. The 20-second segments come from the five LiDAR sensors and cameras on each car, which captured other cars, pedestrians, buses, cyclists, and more. Overall, Waymo labeled 12 million objects for the project.
Waymo’s Drago Anguelov, principal scientist and head of research, says opening up the data for the research community was a “labor of love.” But it may be out of necessity, too. This isn’t the same atmosphere that led to the Uber v. Waymo trade secrets trial.
Each company siloed off, hoarding its own data, won’t help the industry reach its overall goal. Waymo is the only company offering a self-driving ride service, and that’s to only about 1,000 riders in the Phoenix area with safety operators present. Cruise indefinitely postponed its robo-taxi launch in San Francisco. Companies are making progress, but slower than anticipated.
So Waymo and other companies are trying to help the industry as a whole move forward. It’s no longer every company for itself. The idea is to share resources, like Cruise and Uber’s open imaging and data visualization tools and industry-wide safety proposals.
“This is not an admission of any way that we are having problems” with autonomous vehicle deployment, Anguelov said on a call with Mashable. Instead it’s intended to spur progress — even among Waymo competitors.
Waymo has 10 million miles of autonomous data. This is just a small subset that Waymo’s principal scientist called “representative” of the company’s database. He said it’s been “distilled” down to the most robust, diverse, and high-quality moments.
“We understand how hard it is for someone to collect data like this,” he said.
Waymo is soon adding Florida as another test site for its rainy and wet driving conditions.
“It’s a developing field,” he said. “We’re trying to get others thinking about our problems and working with us.”