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February 27, 2018

Recreating the self-driving experience: the making of the Waymo 360° video

  • Technology

To bring Waymo’s technology to life, we leaned on the unique format of 360 video.

Waymo has been working on self-driving technology since our early days at Google in 2009. Today, we have the world’s first and only fleet of fully self-driving cars on public roads, and have self-driven over 5 million miles.

Today we’re introducing a Waymo 360° experience — an immersive video that recreates in full detail a self-driving ride. Go ahead: take control of the camera to see through the “eyes” of our car and take a ride in a Waymo yourself. On mobile, just move your phone around to explore — or use it with a virtual reality headset like Cardboard for a more immersive experience. If you’re on desktop, just drag the video around your screen.

This is the latest step in our efforts to help people understand our technology and how it can make it safer and easier for everyone to get around. It follows on the launch of Let’s Talk Self-Driving, the world’s first self-driving public education campaign, and our first-ever Safety Report.

Seeing the world as Waymo does

Over the years, we’ve seen that one of the best ways to explain how our technology works is to show people an engineering tool called x-view, which displays what the self-driving car “sees” all around it. To bring this experience to life, we leaned on the unique format of 360 video to demonstrate Waymo’s constant 360-degree field of view. Viewers can see firsthand what it means to have millions of data points surrounding them in all directions at any given moment — and perhaps even compare that to how human drivers perceive the world.

Seeing what Waymo "sees" on real city streets
Seeing what Waymo "sees" on real city streets

To create an authentic representation of Waymo’s technology, we started by driving on the streets of Metro Phoenix, Arizona with one of our self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans. Then we worked with our engineers to use the data from those trips as the basis of our 360° video.

The laser visualization in the video presents a simplified view of the LiDAR data collected by our sensors. The radar animation illustrates how these sensors bounce radar waves off surrounding objects to gauge their position and speed. The traffic lights in the camera scene are examples of visible objects that were detected by our high-resolution cameras. The predictions of what each pedestrian, cyclist or vehicle will do next in the video are based off real-time predictions made by our self-driving software.

A graphic of what the Waymo Driver sees in "x-view" is translated into the 360° experience
What the Waymo Driver sees in "x-view" is translated into the 360° experience

Taking a ride with Waymo

We’ve also found that people who ride with Waymo tend to relax quickly as they follow the car’s live field of view in the passenger screen, and realize that the ride itself feels just like an ordinary ride from A to B. This 360° video allows you to get as close to this experience as possible. You’re watching the car self-drive on a real city street, as you ride in the back.

A video from inside a fully autonomous Waymo One vehicle
Taking a ride in Waymo's fully self-driving car

As our technical progress continues, we’ll continue with more public education and awareness initiatives as well. For now, enjoy the Waymo 360° experience!

The Waymo 360° experience was created in partnership with Google Creative Lab.