Real World Testing
Why do we test on public roads? It’s not just to try out our software to see how it behaves — that’s what closed course testing is for. It’s because the world is more complicated than any simulation or track can ever be, and real products have to be tested in the real world.
Testing on public roads is a privilege we take very seriously. We start by abiding by all applicable laws, regulations and guidelines in the cities where we operate. We test in multiple cities because every city is different. A person who got their license in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has a lot to learn about driving in New York city traffic. Traffic laws change, infrastructure like roundabouts and crosswalks differ, and cultural differences can radically alter the relationship between cars, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Luckily, self-driving cars have two huge advantages over people: the technology remembers everything it sees and learns, and lessons learned are shared across the fleet.
When we decide to test in any given city, Test Specialists begin by manually driving through the city, gathering data to build 3-dimensional maps of the streets where we intend to operate. Once the map is ready, we can begin testing in autonomous mode.
Every day we’re on the road, we see new and unusually complex interactions between road users that we wouldn’t have thought of on our own. The more information we collect, the more we can solve, and the safer our next iteration of software becomes.
In time, our self-driving system — always vigilant, always learning, never forgetful — will become a better driver than any human.