US Probe Of Waymo Uncovers More Incidents – Report

NHTSA says its investigation of Waymo self-driving vehicles has uncovered more incidents that raise concerns

The US safety investigation in Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving division over the “unexpected behaviour” of self-driving vehicles, has uncovered more incidents.

This is according to Reuters, which noted that The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had said Friday it has learned of nine additional incidents that raise concerns about the performance of Waymo self-driving vehicles.

Earlier this month NHTSA had begun a preliminary investigation into dozens of incidents involving Waymo’s driverless vehicles, which includes several “single-party” crashes and possible traffic law violations.

Image credit: Waymo

Preliminary investigation

It should be remembered that the NHTSA is already investigating rival robotaxi service providers GM’s Cruise and Amazon’s Zoox.

It is also investigating Elon Musk’s Tesla over its Autopilot driver assistance program.

The NHTSA investigation into roughly 444 Waymo robotaxis comes after the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) had received reports of 22 incidents, including 17 collisions, involving Waymo vehicles equipped with Waymo’s 5th generation automated driving system (ADS).

Additional incidents

But now Reuters has reported that the NHTSA in a letter to Waymo on Friday, said it has learned of 9 additional similar incidents.

The agency said several incidents under investigation “involved collisions with clearly visible objects that a competent driver would be expected to avoid.”

NHTSA said “reports include collisions with stationary and semi-stationary objects such as gates and chains, collisions with parked vehicles, and instances in which the (automated driving system) appeared to disobey traffic safety control devices or rules.”

The agency asked Waymo to answer a series of questions by 11 June about the incidents and provide video for all of the incidents.

Reuters noted that Waymo did not immediately comment Friday, but the Alphabet unit has previously said it would continue to work with NHTSA.

Waymo expansion

In February, Waymo had recalled 444 self-driving vehicles after two minor collisions in quick succession in Phoenix, Arizona.

The two Waymo vehicles made contact with a “pickup truck being towed backwards and at an angle relative to the towing vehicle” within minutes of each other last December.

Now Waymo is facing a preliminary NHTSA investigation, which is the first step before the agency could demand a recall if it believes the vehicles pose an unreasonable risk to safety.

Waymo said in March it was beginning to offer free driverless robotaxi services to select members of the public in Los Angeles.

Waymo that same month also began offering autonomous services for its employees in Austin, Texas, making it the fourth major autonomous ride-hailing city after San Francisco, Phoenix and Los Angeles.

The company has also recently begun testing its driverless vehicles on American highways in preparation for passenger trips.