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Handling the Everyday Tasks of Driving

A white Waymo vehicle driving with cars behind it

A Waymo vehicle in Metro Phoenix.

The Core Competencies of Driving

A fully autonomous vehicle must be able to handle all the everyday driving tasks expected of human drivers.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has recommended that Level 3, Level 4, and Level 5 autonomous vehicles should be able to demonstrate at least 28 core competencies. Waymo’s safety program has expanded the 28 core competencies in both breadth and depth, for which it tests thousands of scenario variations—ranging in complexity—ensuring that its system can safely handle the challenges of real-world environments.

Waymo Is A Skilled Real-World Driver

For each competency, Waymo’s team creates a wide variety of individual tests to run on our closed-course facility and in simulation.

For example, to test Waymo’s ability to make unprotected left turns, engineers stage dozens of real-life situations and test to see if Waymo responds appropriately. Engineers include challenging variations of this road maneuver, including using multiple lanes of oncoming traffic, obstructing the vehicle’s view with a large truck, or providing a short green traffic light to make the turn.

For each of these scenarios it then uses its simulator to create hundreds of different variations of the same encounter. With its virtual world testing, Waymo can also create entirely new scenarios of unprotected left-hand turns so it can test this skill further.

While this type of scenario testing can demonstrate Waymo’s core driving skills, these competencies need to translate into the real world. That’s why this acts merely as a starting point: Waymo is then tested as an integrated, fully autonomous vehicle on public roads.