Waymo, the autonomous vehicle company under Alphabet, has started creating 3D maps in some heavily trafficked sections of Los Angeles to better understand congestion there and determine if its self-driving vehicles would be a good fit in the city.
For now, Waymo is bringing just three of its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans to Los Angeles to map downtown and a section of Wilshire Boulevard known as Miracle Mile.
Waymo employees will initially drive the vehicles to create 3D maps of the city. These maps are unlike Google Maps or Waze. Instead, they include topographical features such as lane merges, shared turn lanes and curb heights as well as road types and the distance and dimensions of the road itself, according to Waymo. That data is combined with traffic control information like signs, the lengths of crosswalks and the locations of traffic lights.
Starting this week, Angelenos might catch a glimpse of Waymo’s cars on the streets of LA! Our cars will be in town exploring how Waymo's tech might fit into LA’s dynamic transportation environment and complement the City’s innovative approach to transportation. pic.twitter.com/REHfxrxqdL
— Waymo (@Waymo) October 7, 2019
Waymo does have a permit to test autonomous vehicles in California and could theoretically deploy its fleet in Los Angeles. But for now, the company is in mapping and assessment mode. Waymo’s foray into Los Angeles is designed to give the company insight into driving conditions there and how its AV technology might someday be used.
The company said it doesn’t plan to launch a rider program like its Waymo One one currently operating in suburbs of Phoenix . Waymo One allows individuals to hail a ride in one of the self-driving cars, which have a human safety driver behind the wheel.
The self-driving car company began testing its autonomous vehicles in and around Mountain View, Calif., before branching out to other cities and weather, including Novi, Mich., Kirkland, Wash., San Francisco and more recently in Florida. But the bulk of the company’s activities have been in suburbs of Phoenix and around Mountain View — two places with lots of sun, and even blowing dust, in the case of Phoenix.