Waymo Releases Data Set to Catalyze Autonomous Driving Research

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This post is the latest in our “Driving Local” series. It’s our editorial focus for the month of August, including topics like autonomous vehicles and the car as the ultimate “local” mobile device. See the rest of the series here

Google’s Waymo is releasing an open data set to provide researchers at other companies and in academia with ample information to improve autonomous driving technology.

The data set is among the most expansive public inventories of autonomous driving information available. It is based on 1,000 driving segments of at least 20 seconds apiece. Waymo’s principal scientist told TechCrunch that the autonomous driving research community is currently hampered by a lack of data and needs more of it to improve efficiency and scalability.

Why should local search specialists care? As Street Fight lead analyst Mike Boland pointed out, autonomous vehicles will vastly accelerate the connected-car phenomenon, allowing riders in the next generation of vehicles to connect with richer media as they go from place to place. Given that the average commute time for Americans is nearly an hour per day, that’s a lot of time on the road and a lot of entertainment and advertising space that could be opened up.

There’s an obvious local application once autonomous cars pervade the market. The same way mobile, with its natural on-the-go use cases, has become the hub of “near me” searches that lead consumers into local businesses, cars will become the next mobile device, catalyzing the next wave of “near me” queries. Self-driving cars are not tangential to the future of local; they are central to it.

Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018. Joe is an ad/martech veteran who has covered the space since 2015. You can contact him at [email protected]