Self-Driving Cars Enter the Next Frontier: Freeways

For now, Waymo is limiting its driverless rides on the freeway to Waymo employees to work out any kinks ahead of an expansion to the public. The company declined to say when that expansion would be. Aurora, an autonomous-technology company focused on trucking, plans to put driverless trucks on freeways in Texas this year.

“That speaks to their confidence,” said Raj Rajkumar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University who specializes in self-driving cars. Waymo and other self-driving car companies still have to deal with risks around uncommon freeway driving scenarios, he added.

Waymo has trained its vehicles for different scenarios they might face. But it is difficult to anticipate every obstacle. On city streets, the cars have faced unexpected hazards, such as people who deliberately run out in front of the self-driving cars to see whether they’ll stop and others who put cones on the cars’ hoods to interfere with their sensors.

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