Video Of Waymo's Robotaxi Driving In Oncoming Lane Gets The Attention Of The Feds

Gif: okgusto / Reddit
Gif: okgusto / Reddit

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a preliminary investigation on Monday into Waymo and incidents involving its driverless vehicles. The probe comes after footage of a Waymo robotaxi driving in the oncoming lane to avoid unicyclists on a San Francisco street went viral. The general public has seemingly had it with self-driving cars, considering that one of the company’s vehicles was torched in February.


While the public undoubtedly reported at least one of the nearly two dozen incidents being investigated by the NHTSA, Waymo is obligated to report collisions to the federal agency. An NHTSA document reads:


“The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has received reports of 22 incidents involving Waymo vehicles equipped with Waymo’s 5th generation automated driving system (ADS) wherein the ADS-equipped vehicle was the sole vehicle operated during a collision or wherein the ADS-equipped vehicle exhibited driving behavior that potentially violated traffic safety laws. Reports include collisions with stationary and semi-stationary objects such as gates and chains, collisions with parked vehicles, and instances in which the ADS appeared to disobey traffic safety control devices. In certain incidents, a collision occurred shortly after the ADS exhibited unexpected behavior near traffic safety control devices.”

Disobeying traffic control devices is putting it lightly. Waymo vehicles have stalled in the middle of intersections, completely blocking traffic. The robotaxis have been involved in other high-profile incidents, including hitting and killing a dog. The company sent a statement to the Verge defending its safety record, which reads:

“At Waymo, we currently serve over 50 thousand weekly trips for our riders in some of the most challenging and complex environments. We are proud of our performance and safety record over tens of millions of autonomous miles driven, as well as our demonstrated commitment to safety transparency. NHTSA plays a very important role in road safety and we will continue to work with them as part of our mission to become the world’s most trusted driver.”

Public scrutiny has already derailed the operations of Cruise, Waymo’s General Motors-operated rival. The California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended the venture’s license after a crash in which a Cruise robotaxi dragged a pedestrian 20 feet along the pavement and pinned her to the ground. With how intense the spotlight is right now, I wouldn’t want to be pinning the future of my company on robotaxis.

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