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Waymo goes public with comprehensive autonomous safety assessment

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SAN FRANCISCO — A Silicon Valley tech giant is opening up about its technology.

Waymo, Google’s self-driving car affiliate, made a comprehensive safety assessment of its autonomous vehicles available to the public on Thursday, publishing a detailed safety report on its website.

The report covers the company’s validation process for its technologies and a breakdown of the hardware and software that enables its cars to drive themselves — an unconventional move in a highly competitive technology race.

“We hope our Safety Report serves as a resource for anyone who wants to understand Waymo’s technology and commitment to safety, and that it contributes to a larger conversation about making our roads safer,” the company wrote in a blog post about the report.

The report follows Waymo’s announcement earlier this week that it was launching a consumer education campaign on its autonomous vehicles in partnership with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Safety Council, the Foundation for Blind Children, the East Valley Partnership and the Foundation for Senior Living.

“Our hope is to grow this conversation into a national dialogue and provide opportunities for people to learn about, and get up close to, this technology,” wrote Waymo CEO John Krafcik in a blog post about the campaign.

The safety report is highly detailed, listing the parameters Waymo uses to consider a vehicle safe for operation, how and when it collects vehicle data and features it’s using to make vehicles accessible to a wide range of riders, such as braille labels and audio and visual displays for customers with vision or hearing disabilities.

Waymo’s transparency comes as the company fights a highly public legal battle with competitor Uber over trade secrets theft of sensor technology crucial to full self-driving. The tech company has even requested to close parts of the trial to the press and the public to keep more of its trade secrets from leaking.

Though manufacturers typically attempt to keep their technology secret to maintain a competitive edge, at the same time, consumers are continuing to hesitate in accepting self-driving technology. An annual AAA study found that 75 percent of Americans were afraid to ride in autonomous vehicles in both 2016 and 2017.

The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration lauded Waymo for the report, which addresses the 12 safety design elements laid out in the agency’s most recent guidelines for deploying self-driving cars. The guidelines also called for manufacturers to voluntarily submit safety assessments of their technology.

“The U.S. Department of Transportation is encouraged that companies are moving forward and implementing the Voluntary Guidance,” the agency said in a statement.

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