Waymo’s ‘Let’s Talk Self-Driving’ event parks in Tempe

Nearly 1.25 million people in the world die in road crashes each year, averaging 3,287 deaths per day, according to the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT).

In the United States, more than 37,000 people die in road crashes each year with an additional 2.35 million injured or disabled.

According to self-driving technology creator Waymo, 94 percent of the crashes in the U.S. involve human choice or error.

The missing link [in safety] is the most critical link and that’s the driver,” Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) Deputy Director of Policy and Communications Kevin Biesty said. “I think addressing that in even a small way is going to go a long way

Waymo’s Chief External Officer Tekedra Mawakana is traveling the U.S. for Waymo’s series of “Let’s Talk Self-Driving” fireside chats with the mission of engaging the public and explaining why their technology exists.

“[Waymo was] so fascinated by how far the technology could go that they posed the question of ‘if technology could be deployed to improve road safety, then should it?’” Mawakana said. “Waymo was born from the fundamental belief that the answer to that question was yes.”

According to Mawakana, self-driving technology seems scary but will ultimately save many lives.

“One of the biggest challenges we have is because people are comfortable with the status quo [but] these are risks that are worth taking because we believe the status quo is not okay [because] first and foremost, the car’s safety is our focus, improving road safety. Once that’s done, making sure that we’re broadening the pie for mobility for all and access for all. That’s the way we think about it every day,” she said.

According to Mawakana, on top of fixing human error on the road, Waymo will also help remove barriers and create independence.

In the blind world, we take licenses away from people as they age or as a disease takes their sight. It’s the hardest thing in the world to take somebody’s license away,” Marc Ashton, Foundation for Blind Children CEO, said. “[Waymo] is giving people that ability to go back and we’ve tackled every other obstacle to work, we have talking computers, we have white canes. We can get people to and from while walking down the hall and information on their computer, but we haven’t tackled [driving].”

Waymo is now partnering with AAA, Phoenix East Valley Partnership, the National Safety Council, the Foundation for Senior Living (FSL), Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and Foundation for Blind Children to bring self-driving technology to the roads and drive the United States into the future.

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Emily Richardson

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