Autonomous vehicles (AVs) hold tremendous promise to make our roads safer. Testing and training these self-driving systems, however, demands a sizable test fleet driving potentially billions of miles. Around the world, this type of AV testing is currently underway—with car companies, truck makers, and mobility services racking up miles of test drives to gain the necessary real-world experience to demonstrate that AVs can handle the unpredictability of everyday driving.
Validating a vehicle’s self-driving capabilities solely using physical on-road testing, however, is an insurmountable task. As humans, it’s easy to identify some situations where we’re accident prone—an unprotected left turn, a heavy rainstorm, or sudden highway stop. But it’s simply impossible to encounter every dangerous or rare situation by continuously driving highway loops or through cities. Physical testing is also a costly endeavor, requiring the maintenance and operation of hundreds of vehicles driving around the world.