Designing the Waymo Driver

Hi everyone, my name
is YooJung Ahn. I’m the Head of Design at Waymo. I wish we could be together in person, but I’m super excited to be here virtually to share more on how we
design our Waymo Driver. So thank you so much for tuning in. We have a lot of ground to cover today, but first I’d like to take a few moments to introduce you to Waymo, who we are, what we are doing, and
why we are doing it. We are a self-driving technology company with a mission to make it safe and easy for people and things to
get where they’re going. Fully self-driving
vehicles hold the promise to improve road safety and
offer new mobility options to millions of people. Driving today is not exactly
as safe as it could be, which is why safety is at
the core of Waymo’s mission. Globally there are close
to 1.35 million deaths every year due to vehicle crashes. With more than half of those
people being pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists. And it goes beyond fatalities. There are over 50 million
injuries worldwide caused by vehicle crashes every year. There’s a clear theme to the vast majority of these incidents: human
error and inattention. In fact, 94% of crashes in the U.S. involve human choice or
error, whether it’s speeding, distraction from our
phones, lack of sleep, or drunk driving, there
are a lot of factors that lead to these statistics. Over the last 10 years,
we’ve put our technology through the world’s longest and toughest ongoing driving test to help address these grim statistics we’ve self-driven more
than 20 million miles on public roads, over 10 billion miles in simulation, and across over 25 cities in the U.S. That’s hundreds of years
of human driving experience that benefits every vehicle in our fleet. Let’s take a deeper look at our history. We started back in 2009 as the Google self-driving car project. In the early days, we
were focused on developing the core capabilities of self-driving and understanding the challenges. In 2011, we started developing
all of our own hardware in-house, alongside our
software, after realizing nothing off the shelf was
as advanced as we needed. In 2013, we made a key decision to pivot from developing a driver-assistant system to exclusively pursuing fully
self-driving technology. So we took a clean sheet
approach and developed Firefly, a vehicle that could
move people around cities with no human driver. Two years later in 2015, we
completed the world’s first fully autonomous ride on public roads with Firefly in Austin, Texas. In 2016, with that landmark
ride under our belts, we transitioned from being part of Google, and became Waymo, an independent
company within Alphabet. Since then, we’ve forged
key partnerships with OEMs like Fiat Chrysler and Jaguar Land Rover, welcomed the members of the public into our fully self-driving cars, launched our self-driving
trucking program, and most recently, we begun offering fully driverless rides to our riders. Throughout this experience,
we’ve been focused on building the Waymo Driver, which is how we refer to our self-driving technology. There are two pieces to
the Waymo Driver: hardware and software. On the hardware side
we have a sensor suite that includes lidar, cameras, radar, and a powerful AI compute platform. Combined, these sensors give our vehicles a 360 degree view of the
world, over 300 meters away. On the software side, the
brain of our self-driving vehicles, we take all of the information our sensors collect to
answer four key questions: Where am I? What’s around me? What will happen next? and what should I do? Together, our hardware and
software work in concert to paint the complete picture
of the world around the car and enable us to navigate roads safely. Our Waymo Driver can be
deployed across a number of different business
applications globally, serving many different industries. Ride hailing is an important
application of our Driver, and our main focus. Our technology can also
make trucking safer and more efficient, and
fill a pressing need for more drivers in
many parts of the world. Delivery is another important opportunity, something we are testing
now with partners, like AutoNation, to deliver car parts rapidly to their dealerships. Our OEM partners are also
interested in sharing the Waymo Driver with their customers through personally owned cars,
and we will work with them to bring that application to life. These applications fall
into two categories: moving people, which we
will do through Waymo One, and moving things, which we
will do through Waymo Via, our new sub-brand focused on
commercial goods delivery. Now that you have a sense of Waymo and the Driver we’re
building, I’d like to dive into what we are here to talk about: design, and how we think about it at Waymo. Our process is guided by our
design principles and language. Developing design that is
consistent, yet flexible, is important for the tech industry, because things change so fast, from the technology, to the products. At Waymo we follow four
core design principles for all of our products
and have a design language which evolves over time
based on our strategy. Our design principles are simple, honest, approachable, and delightful. Simplicity is embedded
into our core at Waymo. We make it simple and
easy for anyone to get from A to B, so our design
should be easy to understand and free of unnecessary elements. Next is honest. We put the utmost
consideration and thought into every part of our
technology and service. And all of our designs should
be honest and thoughtful. Then approachable. It’s
important that all of our designs be easily accessible, sincere and friendly to attract curious new customers and create a sense of community. And finally, delightful. Our design should reflect
our optimistic goals and ambitions for the future by inspiring wonder,
delight, and intrigue. Design language goes hand
in hand with brand identity and defines characteristics, colors, and material applications
of Waymo’s products. Whether they be a physical
product like a vehicle, or digital products, such as, the passenger
screens in our vehicles. Design language really
comes down to guiding how the product looks and
how it makes people feel. Good design language
requires strategic embodiment of brand values and design principles, and can’t be established in a day. Our current design language is made up of four different pillars: Pure, Flow, Balance, and Contrast. Keeping the design pure
and simple is important for the Waymo Driver,
especially since we have several different vehicle platforms
from different OEMs. Because each of these OEMs
has its own design language which is beyond our control, we have to keep our
design as pure as possible to be harmonious without
aesthetic conflict. Flow design has both
functional and visual benefits for the Waymo Driver. It allows us to improve aerodynamics, and reduce the visual mass. Balance is important for the
Waymo Driver’s field of view and mass distribution, but
also is directly related to how users perceive
the safety and comfort of our vehicle. Since stable and balanced
design gives people a sense of safety. Lastly, contrast helps to simplify various different elements
of the Waymo Driver and has great functional benefits. For example, we use both
white and black coloring across our sensor suite, and both have different
functional advantages. To blend Waymo’s design language
with all other requirements of the technology and
platform, we constantly develop concepts and verify on the vehicle. While this is our current state, our design language evolves over time… …Which is exactly what
I want to cover next. Let’s take a quick look at
how our design has changed over the last 10 years
across three distinct phases, five generations of the Waymo Driver, and over 6 vehicle platforms. (bright uplifting music) Since our inception we’ve moved through three main stages of design: Retrofitting, building from the ground
up, and applying our Driver across multiple OEM platforms. When we first started in
2009, design was very limited. Our exterior sensors were
mostly off the shelf and exposed on the car. The only design items were
interior displays and controls. This was more of a prototype stage where we were solely focused on achieving basic functionality. Following our retrofit stage,
we then designed our own self-driving car from scratch, Firefly. Building a self-driving
car from the ground up was a huge learning for
us from both a technical and customer standpoint. After this valuable experience, we realized that in order
to scale our fleet faster, we should focus on the technology
and building our driver instead of building a car. To do that, we partnered
with OEM companies, like Fiat Chrysler and Jaguar, to provide us with custom vehicles that have enabled us to launch
our ride hailing service and commercial goods delivery. This has been a huge design challenge, since we’ve had to ensure
Waymo’s design and branding is represented across the
multiple different OEM platforms, so that users can easily
identify the Waymo Driver. Also, how we approach design
is fundamentally different. Whereas OEMs are selling a
car, we are selling a service. Now, what I’m most excited for today! Let’s take a closer look at our fifth-generation Waymo Driver and its design details. With this latest
generation, we were motivated to celebrate the Waymo Driver
as a unique design element separate from the vehicle platform, which maintains its own design identity. Here’s what that looks like
on our new vehicle platform, The Jaguar I-PACE. (upbeat electronic music) Compared to previous generations, our sensors and compute are
even more powerful than before. Every part is designed for
scale, and it comes with a distinctive Waymo look. What are we are building
is not a concept car, we are designing our
Driver for the real world, to be used by our thousands
of Waymo One riders as well our B2B partners. Here you can see the breakdown
of our custom-built hardware that makes up the fifth-
generation Waymo Driver. Lidar, cameras, and
radar, as well as compute. Each of them is more powerful
than the previous generation and equipped with enhanced capabilities. First, let’s look at
our new family of lidar, which has an even higher resolution across a wider range. As one of the Waymo Driver’s
most powerful sensors, our lidar paints a picture of its surroundings in great detail. It sees the world in 3D and
can see in the dark of night without any illumination. Our 360 Lidar, which
is located in our dome, can see up to 300 meters away, and provides a bird’s
eye view of the cars, cyclists, and pedestrians
surrounding the vehicle. At the same time, our
latest perimeter lidars placed at four points around the vehicle offer unparalleled coverage
with a wide field of view to detect objects close to the vehicle. Our new vision system,
including 29 cameras, provides our Waymo Driver
with higher resolution images and greater perspective. Our cameras also have
overlapping field of view directly around our vehicle. We’ve assembled them with cleaning systems and heaters for the best performance in any weather condition. Our new long range cameras
and 360 vision system now see much farther than before allowing us to identify important details, like stop signs greater
than 500 meters away. In addition, our new
perimeter vision system works in conjunction
with our perimeter lidars to give the Waymo Driver
another perspective of objects close to the vehicle. Our new peripheral vision system
helps us reduce blind spots caused by parked cars or large vehicles. These new cameras enable
us to peek around objects, such as a truck driving in front of us, to see what might be there, and to make a decision about what to do. Together, these various types of cameras allow us to make decisions
earlier and faster with even more information
than we’ve ever had before. And lastly, our radar. Waymo’s new, state-of-the-art,
high resolution imaging radar located in six places around the vehicle, tracks both static and moving objects, can see small objects
at greater distances, and distinguish between
closely spaced objects. Radar compliments lidar and cameras with its unique capabilities
in weather conditions such as rain, fog, and snow. Now, let’s take a look
at how these sensors are applied on the I-PACE. On the roof, we have a
combination of our 360 lidar, 360 cameras, long-range
cameras, and two radars. On the front, we have
perimeter lidar and cameras. On both sides of the vehicle,
there is a combination of radar, perimeter lidar and cameras, and peripheral cameras. And on the rear side of the vehicle, we also have perimeter lidar and cameras, peripheral cameras, and radars. With this understanding
of our sensor suite and our new vehicle, let’s talk
about design considerations that went into both
the individual sensors, as well as the Waymo Driver as a whole. The first area we focus on is how design can optimize the performance
and safety of our hardware in addition to providing
aesthetic benefits. As we just discussed, we
have many different hardware modules that need to be
applied to our vehicles. Finding the best location
for all the sensors is an important first step for the design. Then we need to carefully
design each hardware piece and the housings to provide an
uninterrupted field of view. Throughout the process, we’re
working with engineering to find the best possible position, angle, and hardware that satisfies
both the function and design. So while some may say our
sensors look too obvious on the vehicle, they are designed and placed where they need to be to help maximize capability and safety. Temperature and weather is another area we have to think about in our design. When you have many
different types of hardware constantly running, the
parts generate heat. On top of that, we need to think of the
varying weather conditions our system could encounter. It can be hot in Phoenix, cold in Detroit, and wet in San Francisco,
all at the same time. And our Waymo Driver needs
to be able to function in all of these conditions consistently. We also test against the
most extreme of conditions. This is one of our early engineering vehicles that we took to Death
Valley to do thermal testing. As you can see, the temperature
was 50 degrees Celsius. It’s very hot! To design each part to
perform without failure, we need to consider
each of them carefully. Often, we add ducts, fans, vents, heaters, and cleaning and air nozzles to them. This process can only be
done by radical collaboration between design and engineering. It’s not easy to design
such a complex system for all weather conditions, but it’s one of the most important
aspects of functionality, especially for this fifth generation, which is built to help us scale across a diverse set of locations. Using design to optimize
performance doesn’t stop at the design of the hardware itself. We also need to find the
best colors, materials, and finishes for each part. Since our vehicles will
be used for ride hailing, the interior materials
should be more durable and cleanable than personal cars. The exterior part finishes
need to work for all weather and the sensors and
housings should be water and dust resistant, optically acceptable, and meet thermal requirement. After various testing, we can spec the materials and finishes. A lot goes into optimizing our current technology’s performance, but we also want to make sure
we are designing a system that has room to evolve
as our technology does. To do this, we’ve made hardware modules usable for several different locations, prioritized simple and pure forms to integrate them harmoniously, and designed for efficient packaging. We’ve done this across
each of our sensors. As you see here, we’ve
placed our perimeter lidar in four different places
around the vehicle. We’ve dones the same
with our vision system. And with our radar, the
simple geometric shape enabled multi-use of the module. For the I-PACE, we have six
identical radar modules for six different locations. The next area we focus a lot of time on is designing our Driver with
the Waymo look and feel, and applying Waymo’s design
language to our hardware and enclosure design. This gives us a consistent look and feel, and cohesive branding across
platforms and products, and portrays us as a technology company as opposed to a car company. Since we are building the Driver as a separate design element from the car, we want to celebrate
our sensors distinctly from the vehicle platform, and embrace Waymo’s own design language. We tried to find a way
to show Waymo’s branding through our design details. It can be the form of the design, the application of logos and wordmarks, or just simple accent colors. You can see this in the way
we’ve designed our roof pod. It has a simple shape, an accent color, and our wordmarks. In the dome, we can also
display the Waymo logo to help identify that
the vehicle is powered by the Waymo Driver. We’ve also branded our individual sensors on the front, sides, and rear, again with coloring and wordmarks. We embrace our own Waymo branding and want our Driver to
look and feel distinct from the base vehicle so
that no matter the platform, you can recognize it as the Waymo Driver. This feeds into our next design goal of ensuring that our Driver can be adapted across multiple OEM platforms,
not just custom-made for one. Whether it’s a mini-van or
SUV on the passenger side, or a van, or a semi-truck on
the commercial goods side, the Waymo Driver can be applied
to many different platforms with many different requirements. These platforms also serve
a variety of use cases, from ride hailing, to local
delivery, to long-haul trucking. In order to build comfort and trust among our various users, we work to build a cohesive brand identity
for the Waymo Driver and establish consistency
and similarity across each. We adapt our Driver to
these various platforms through a collaborative
process that looks like this. The base vehicle platforms are prepped for the self-driving system by the OEMs. They ensure the vehicles are compatible for the Waymo Drive and
add things like cutouts and mountings for our hardware, and for software features such
as braking and steering. Then our hardware is designed and applied to the vehicle,
and tested, and validated. That process is the same for all of the platforms we work with. Here is what they look like
in their original form. And this is what they look
like with the Waymo Driver. Finally, although the
Waymo Driver requires a highly complex
tech-driven design approach, we can’t forget that it is planned for, and used by people, so
we embrace and prioritize a human-centered approach. We’ve added moving LEDs to our dome, so that it can also act as a mechanism for riders to identify
the vehicle day and night, and recognize which vehicle is theirs when there may be more
than one Waymo car waiting. Another way we’ve made
our high tech product human centered in our latest system is how we’ve packaged our compute. Our engineering team
successfully reduced the volume of our even more powerful
compute under the trunk, so that passengers will be able to use the trunk space, which wasn’t available in our previous platform. Riders will be able to use
it to transport groceries, luggage, folding wheelchairs, golf clubs, and everything in between. This is one of the accomplishments we are really proud of
that not only showcases the close collaboration between our design and engineering teams,
but also the importance of keeping the end user in mind
as we develop our products. Now after years of development and careful design consideration, our fifth-generation
Driver is test driving on public roads in the Bay Area and will eventually be rolled
out into our Waymo One fleet. Wow! We’ve taken a long
journey together today. We’ve looked at Waymo and our history, how our design has evolved
over the last 10 years, and our latest Waymo Driver. But what’s next for us
and our design team? Our Waymo Driver will continue to power our many different
commercial applications. Whether that’s moving people
through our ride hailing service Waymo One, moving
goods through Waymo Via, or helping advance other
industrial use cases with our Laser Bear Honeycomb lidar, this technology can help accelerate a wide array of products
now and in the future. (bright music) – [Woman] Say hello to Waymo, the world’s most experienced Driver. The Waymo Driver is what we call our self-driving technology. It has over a decade of
real world experience and has driven millions of miles. With Waymo One, we can
make it safer and easier for you to get around, so you can spend more
time doing what you love. (child laughs) And with Waymo Via, the same Driver with the same deep experience
can also deliver your packages or save you a trip to the dry cleaners. Or if you run a business, Waymo
Via can help you transport whatever you need, making sure shipments arrive right when they’re supposed to. This is the Waymo Driver, a driver that’s re-imagining
transportation for all of us. – [YooJung Ahn] Thank you
so much for your time today. Hopefully it helped
provide more information on Waymo and how we
design our Waymo Driver. For any designers listening, we are growing our awesome team here, so go check out
to see our open positions. And if you have any questions
on our design process and what we talked about here today, head to Waymo’s Instagram
profile to submit yours. I will be answering some
of them later this week. Thanks so much.


  1. How about go ahead & release this program already. Google has Billions of dollars stashed so, you guys aren't going broke anytime when you start.

    Also, now's the perfect time to release the program cause of Covid19/Social Distancing. So why not start now for those that can't drive? Such as people like me…

  2. I thought it would be more technical on how they are training their AI. What a let down.

    having powerful hardware means nothing if your software cant take advantage of it.

  3. If you're going to make a video in a particular language, why not have a native speaking narrator? She's 100% fluent but the accent is so thick this is just a bad comedy skit that went on 28 minutes too long.

  4. Unfortunately every player except Tesla is screwed. Billions of $ burned. Better get funded by customers instead of investors.

  5. All this talk and Waymo couldn't even demonstrate a vehicle? If this shit is so great then why do we have to watch animations instead of the real thing?

  6. Sometimes i get the impression that the only thing you do is praising yourselves. This whole story with waymo is getting tiring for us. It's been more than 5 years with self driving experiments and projects that going nowhere, who's gonna be a damn good company that will actually release a true self driving car we can actually really realistically use? Maybe Tesla? They are lagging behind too. Also don't bother using an ICE car this technology is perfectly possible in EVs only. Damn technology goes at a snail's pace lately. Now if we talk about design, uhh not good really, bulky like a tank not appealing to the eye at all, all these pumps need to disappear.

  7. Bad: I hate how it looks. Looks like it’s got Down syndrome or cancerous growths on it. I’m not driving that until you fix it.

    Like: Waymo VIA can transport my goods. So I don’t have to own the truck. But what’s the flat rate charge? Would it be cheaper to buy my own trucks vs you?

    Is your vehicles all electric?

    What’s the range?

    Did you fix the Tesla cold weather battery dead issue?

    Can it drive cost to cost? Video proving this?

    If you’re going to use the most expensive cars on the market to attach your crap to it why bother?

    How’s a layman going to afford this?

    What features does it come with?

    Is it able to be activated by text if I own one saying hey pick up the kids from school? Or text it pick up groceries from the store and have a person who loads it load it up? Can I text it hey pick me up from this location and then drive me home or to a movie theater?

    Can it self charge itself at a self charging station when low on battery power? Know where the self charging station is? Know how far it can travel before it needs to

    Can it send me text needs to go to a repair shop flat tire, or needs to go to a repair shop
    It needs new oil, or tire shop change tires? Can I text the car take yourself and drive back when done?

    If you’re selling the car of the future why not have it play the part if it’s going to act like my butler and drive me around.

    Does it have a small flat screen behind the drivers seat or shotgun seat so I can watch the news?

    Does it have its own built in private and secure WiFi? With GPS so I can physically see how much longer?

    Those are just some of my questions and concerns. Address those properly and I’ll actually be interested. As of right now I’m more interested in Ford or Tesla.

  8. I think the sensors came out looking very nice on the I-pace. Especially the roof mounted suite looks really sleek to me.


  10. People say they're nervous about getting into a self-driving car, but willingly step foot into an Uber with a stranger who has emotions, potential agendas, irrational thoughts..

  11. I'm not saying one method is correct and one method is incorrect, but it's going to be very interesting (and it has been) to watch the two ways of approaching self driving vehicles, mainly between Tesla and Waymo. Personally I think Tesla has a huge advantage, but I can also see some problems with their approach.

  12. I like what i hear but what i SEE… you guys edited those clips very nicely of the Jag so that we can't really get a great view of how much those sensors stick out…

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