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LATEST NEWS

  • Marijan Hassan - Tech Journalist

Regulators discover nine more incidents in Waymo robotaxi safety probe


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has uncovered nine additional incidents involving Waymo's self-driving taxis, raising further concerns about the technology's safety. The incidents include reports of Waymo robotaxis colliding with gates, utility poles, and parked vehicles, driving in the wrong lane with nearby oncoming traffic, and into construction zones.



The agency said that while it’s unaware of any injuries from these incidents, several involved collisions with visible objects that “a competent driver would be expected to avoid.” The agency also expressed concern that some of these occurred near pedestrians. 


The news comes after an initial investigation launched earlier in May following reports of 22 incidents, including collisions and unexpected maneuvers, involving Waymo's robotaxis.


The NHTSA is conducting a preliminary investigation, the first step before potentially demanding a recall of Waymo vehicles if safety risks are deemed unreasonable. These recent findings indicate a potentially wider issue with Waymo's self-driving technology, specifically its 5th generation automated driving system (ADS) equipped in its robotaxis.


The initial reports described Waymo vehicles potentially violating traffic laws or exhibiting unusual behavior. Details regarding the newly discovered incidents have not been disclosed, but they are likely similar.


This probe comes at a critical juncture for Waymo, which recently expanded its driverless taxi services to the public in Los Angeles and offers employee ride-hailing in other cities. Waymo has also begun testing its autonomous vehicles on highways in preparation for longer-distance passenger trips.


The NHTSA investigation is not unique. Other self-driving car companies, like General Motors' Cruise and Amazon's Zoox, are also facing federal scrutiny over their technologies. Tesla's Autopilot driver-assistance program is under investigation as well, highlighting broader concerns about the safety of autonomous vehicles.


Waymo has not commented on the specific incidents under investigation but has maintained its commitment to safety. The company previously recalled 444 vehicles after two minor collisions potentially caused by a software error impacting how the vehicles predict the movement of towed objects.


The NHTSA's investigation findings will be crucial in determining the safety of Waymo's robotaxis and the future of autonomous vehicle technology as a whole. With more incidents coming to light, regulators must assess the risks involved and determine if Waymo's technology needs significant improvements before widespread public adoption.

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