Waymo’s self-driving systems will be vetted at two proving grounds

As it readies its self-driving technology for operations across a wide swath of environments, Waymo will soon begin testing at two new dedicated proving grounds.

The company said Tuesday it has partnered with the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio, to establish a physical environment where it can test edge-case scenarios in an area that models dense, urban driving. Edge cases are driving situations that are extreme or rarely occur.

Meanwhile, Waymo has leased a test track in Menlo Park, Calif., where it will focus on component testing for heavy-duty trucks. In addition to testing space, the property will house a 13,000-square-foot facility that Waymo will use to accommodate a growing number of trucking-focused engineers, product and operations employees.

Waymo already operates a closed-course test facility on the former Castle Air Force Base north of Merced, Calif., where dozens of autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans trundle around a 113-acre landscape designed to replicate city driving.

The new facilities will help Waymo, the commercial offspring of Google’s self-driving car project, further vet the capabilities of its fifth-generation driving system. The system is already being tested on public roads on the Jaguar I-PACE in the company’s metro Phoenix hub, as well as near its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters and in San Francisco.

The developments come at a time when the company has expanded its deployment of driverless robotaxis in metro Phoenix within its Waymo One ride-hailing service and simultaneously sought to emphasize its Waymo Via goods-hauling business utilizing vehicles that range from Chrysler Pacifica minivans to Class 8 trucks.

In East Liberty, Ohio, TRC will develop an exclusive proving ground built to Waymo’s specifications amid its sprawling 4,500-acre facility, the largest independent test facility in the United States.

There, Waymo will test “longtail challenges you might never encounter on public roads” in urban applications. Waymo’s space at TRC will include room for truck testing.

Waymo says it will retain development of the testing regimen while TRC focuses on maintaining the physical infrastructure.

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