CHANDLER, Ariz. — There are assumptions about why Waymo chose this sprawling Phoenix suburb as the location to launch the world's first commercial robotaxi service more than three years ago.
Vehicle-friendly streets. Modern infrastructure. Eternal sunshine.
Those are sensible criteria for a fledgling proving ground of self-driving technology. But they can be misleading, and they belie the complexity involved in progress toward Waymo's ultimate goal — building the world's most versatile driver.
"Say you want to make an unprotected left turn across three lanes of traffic," says Chris Ludwick, program manager at Waymo, describing a typical Chandler intersection. "You're going across a 45-mph road where cars routinely drive 60 or 65 mph. If you make a mistake, it's potentially significant."