Self-driving car company tests interactions with their cars and horses

TEMPE, Ariz. (FOX 10) - The self-driving car company, Waymo, was seriously "horsing" around this week, finding ways to make the roads even safer.

It's a common sight in Valley neighborhoods, horses walking down the street like in Tempe. But here's something else you're seeing a lot of as well, self-driving cars.

Jill Clark rides Blitz, a retired police horse, at least once if not twice a day. She uses designated bridle paths but sometimes has to cross the street to get from one trail to the other and recently noticed the Waymo cars in the area.

"Jill initially reached out with a couple of questions about our cars driving in the neighborhood and how they interacted with large animals in the area," said Dezbah Hatathli, the local Policy and Community Manager for Waymo.

Dezbah Hatathli says company cars cover about 25,000 miles a day in Arizona.

"One of the main reasons we came to Arizona was to look at the complex situations, that our car can drive in those situations, including encountering a horse in the roadway," said Hatathli.

"When we are out there on the roads, we are classifying a lot of different objects we can encounter on the roadways and our cars have to be able to correctly classify those objects, but we also have to be able to predict how they might interact," explained Hatathli.

"The Waymo car would go right down the center of the street and that's when I thought it might be something they might be interested in for their cars as they go into more and more rural areas that have more horses than just our neighborhood," said Jill Clark.

To get a better idea of such a scenario, Clark and Blitz teamed up with Waymo to find out what would happen.

"From what our cameras captured the self-driving car was able to get around the horse without spooking the animal," said Hatathli.

The results of the experiment will be studied further.

"We're really looking at using this technology here in Arizona, getting feedback from the community, and also our local electeds on how we might be able to roll this out safely and effectively to reduce the number of traffic deaths that occur," said Hatathli.