How Waymo is designing the self-driving car passenger experience to feel convenient and safe

Here’s a sense of today’s self-driving ride.

As Waymo and its many rivals prepare to roll out driverless cars to consumers, one of their challenges has been to design an experience for riders that feels both convenient and safe.

For a sense of the state of the art, it’s worth flipping through this new 43-page safety report (pdf) from Waymo, the self-driving tech subsidiary of Google’s parent Alphabet. In April, the company announced it would be testing a fleet of 600 Chrysler Pacifica minivans in Phoenix, Ariz. Waymo is also operating its cars — which include 70 Lexus SUVs — on public roads in Washington, Texas, and California.

Getting a ride and starting off

Waymo’s test cars are being run as an on-demand service, which riders can hail through a mobile app. After getting seated, passengers start the ride by pressing a “start ride” button, either within the app or on an in-car display. It’s a small but sensible nuance that gives passengers some level of control over the ride, allowing them to ensure they’re settled and ready before the driverless car starts moving.

Seeing what the car sees

During the course of the ride, the in-car display will show passengers pertinent information like their route and expected time of arrival. But it will also show them what the car is seeing with its visual system, including its camera and other sensors like lidar and radar. This is designed to be comforting and educational — so “riders can understand what the vehicle is perceiving and responding to, and be confident in the vehicle’s capabilities.”

An illustration of Alphabet’s self-driving cars. 	Waymo

Controlling the ride

The whole point of a self-driving car is that it drives itself. But Waymo has outfitted its cars with a “pull over” button, which identifies the first safe place to pull over so riders can exit. Another button can reach Waymo’s rider support team to answer questions or help out.

Handling unsafe conditions or an accident

The car will find a way to come to a safe stop if it detects unsafe driving conditions. In the rare occurrence of an accident, the car will also communicate instructions using audio and visual cues.


Autonomous vehicles hold a great deal of promise for people with disabilities. So Alphabet is designing its cars with that in mind. For example, Waymo is taking advantage of accessibility features built into Android and iOS that replace visual controls with speech controls. In addition to labeling the “start ride” and other buttons with Braille, Alphabet is experimenting with so-called “wayfinding” features, which help visually impaired passengers find their cars by making a guiding sound.

The big picture

When designing the human-car interface and experience, Waymo says it has four main goals:

  • Giving passengers the information they need for a seamless trip.
  • Helping passengers anticipate what’s next.
  • Proactively communicating the vehicle’s response to events on the road.
  • Helping passengers engage safely with the vehicle.

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Cincinnati Airport uses Bliptrack to improve passenger wait times

Cincinnati Airport uses Bliptrack to improve passenger wait times

Cincinnati Airport in Kentucky is using connected technology from BlipTrack in a bid to deal with passenger demand and improve wait times.

With almost seven million passengers passing through this international transport hub last year, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) is using live data to identify delays at the security checkpoint and allocate staff and resources better.

To do this, it’s been using BlipTrack technology from Blip Systems, allowing it to process passengers in more efficient ways. Just last year, the airport achieved its best-ever ranking in its 21-year history in the US Department of Transportation airfare report.

Read more: Billund Airport invests in IoT system to improve passenger experience

Tech pioneer

CVG is always looking to improve, and it’s been using sophisticated technology for years. In 2014, CA implemented BlipTrack queue and flow technology at its checkpoints.

It was the first American airport to implement this technology, which allows staff to measure, understand and improve the traveler experience, and to better plan and allocate crucial resources.

After one year of use, the airport announced that the data gathered had helped it reduced its security line wait times by one third. A 2015 report by Purdue University found that standard wait times had dropped by nearly over four minutes from 13.2 minutes in 2011 to 8.9 minutes.

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Continuing journey

Since originally enabling this technology, Cincinnati Airport has added new features to the solution to help it continue streamlining operations further and improving the passenger experience.

For instance, it’s now using passenger-facing wait time monitors and interfaces to provide immediate wait-time status, easing natural travel anxieties associated with queuing for passengers.

In addition, the airport has established what it calls “service level agreement (SLA)-like standards for self-accountability”, helping it to stick to its goal of wait times below 15 minutes. 

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Boosting efficiencies

Stephen Saunders, senior manager of terminal operations at CVG, explained how the technology works: “We have added a new feature that allows us to understand the pattern of how lanes are being utilized throughout the day.

“This helps us better understand TSA’s lane utilization on any given day. Our future goal is to pair this information with passenger show-up profiles and wait-time inputs to complete a story of how the check point is operating as a whole, and help the TSA develop lane open/close plans based on predicted throughputs.”

He added that the airport, which serves the greater Cincinnati area, has been working with partners to get the most out of this technology. “We have used tangible data to work with our partners at TSA to adjust officer start time,” said Saunders.

“We previously noticed a high spike in queue waits during our heaviest early bank of morning flights, levelling off after about 7:30am. We collectively identified TSA schedules were misaligned with the flight schedules.”

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The future is here

Candace McGraw, CEO at CVG, is a big believer in this innovation.  “Our use of the technology has proven quite successful,” she said.

“It has enabled CVG to continue our close collaboration with TSA to ensure that the passenger experience is one that enhances the journey experience, not detracts from it. Our significant investments in our facilities and the solution ensures we use them as as effectively and efficiently as possible.”

Today, more than 25 airports from around the world are using technology from Bliptrack. They include JFK, San Diego, Copenhagen, Dublin, Oslo, Manchester and Brussels airports.

The post Cincinnati Airport uses Bliptrack to improve passenger wait times appeared first on Internet of Business.

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