Waymo recalls, updates robotaxi software after two cars crash into same towed truck


Waymo is voluntarily recalling the software that powers its robotaxis fleet after two vehicles crashed into the same towed van in Phoenix, Arizona, in December. This is the company’s first recall.

Waymo safety chief Mauricio Peña called the accidents “minor” in a statement. blog post, and said neither vehicle was carrying passengers at the time. There were no injuries. He also said that Waymo’s ride-hailing service — which is available in Phoenix, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Austin — “is not and has not been disrupted by this update.” The company declined to share video of the crashes with TechCrunch.

Waymo said it developed, tested and validated a fix for the software that it began rolling out to its fleet on December 20. All of its robotaxis received this software update on January 12.

“This voluntary recall reflects how seriously we take our responsibility to deploy our technology safely and communicate transparently with the public,” Peña wrote.

The recall comes at a time when self-driving cars are facing increased scrutiny following a series of high-profile accidents and controversies – including one last week where a Waymo robotaxi hit a cyclist. Last weekend, a Waymo autonomous vehicle was vandalized and set on fire by a crowd of people in San Francisco. Rival operator Cruise, meanwhile, has suspended operations as it manages the fallout of a crash that occurred last October. He hired his first security manager this week.

The accidents that prompted the recall both occurred on December 11. Peña wrote that one of Waymo’s vehicles came upon a rear-facing pickup truck that was “improperly towed.” The truck was “constantly tilted between a center turning lane and a travel lane.” Peña said the robotaxi “incorrectly predicted the future movement of the towed vehicle” due to this mismatch between the orientation of the tow truck and the van, and made contact. The company told TechCrunch that this caused minor damage to the left front bumper.

However, according to Peña, the tow truck did not stop and a few minutes later, another Waymo robotaxi came into contact with the same towed van. The company told TechCrunch that this caused minor damage to the left front bumper and a sensor. (The tow truck stopped after the second accident.)

Waymo said it contacted the Phoenix Police Department and the Arizona Department of Public Safety on the day of the crashes and notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Dec. 15. The company and NHTSA staff had “four subsequent conversations” about the accident. crashed, before Waymo decided to voluntarily recall the software used at the time.

The recall could increase public pressure on Waymo, as cities, citizens and government agencies scrutinize the promise of autonomous vehicle fleets. Robotaxis are already facing pushback in Los Angelesincluding Teamsters Union. The California Department of Motor Vehicles is already investigating the aforementioned Waymo accident with a cyclist. And the Justice Department and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, among others, are investigating Cruise’s record. management of its October crash.


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