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Waymo, the Google-owned autonomous driving company, is set to begin mapping the streets of New York in order to facilitate better autonomous driving in the city.
Waymo’s fleet of vehicles will be manually operated by “autonomous specialists” at all times in order to keep drivers and pedestrians safe.
New Yorkers can expect to see Waymo vehicles in Manhattan, driving around the area south of Central Park. From there, the company’s operations will expand down the city to the Financial District and into parts of New Jersey through the Lincoln Tunnel.
Waymo is hoping to learn a lot from New York – given its unusually high population density for an American city and its typically inclement weather.
“The heavy rain and dense snowfall that we expect to encounter will build on the driving we’ve completed to date in the snow and rain, giving us more opportunities to assess the way our sensors perform in wet, cold conditions beyond our data augmentation and simulation testing,” said a Waymo blog post.
New York’s “bustling avenues, unusual road geometries, complex intersections, and constantly evolving layouts,” will also help the Waymo cars in the future.
Waymo says that it has been in communication with New York policymakers, regulators, industry leaders, and nonprofit groups to garner feedback and have apparently received encouraging responses.
For example, Mayor-elect Eric Adams says “Autonomous vehicles hold the promise to dramatically improve traffic flow and expand access to convenient and affordable transportation for millions of New Yorkers. I’m excited to welcome Waymo to New York so that one day we can have safe autonomous technology on our streets.”
“The more information we gather about the way our city moves, the closer we get to creating a more efficient, sustainable, and safe mobility network. Tech:NYC is excited to welcome Waymo to New York to help us learn how our streets — from bike and bus lanes to highways and walkways — really work,” adds Tech:NYC Executive Director Julie Samuels.