Waymo is the Latest to Face Investigation Over Robotaxi Safety

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Key Takeaways

  • The NHTSA is investigating Waymo robotaxi safety following incident reports.
  • The self-driving cars collided with stationary objects and possibly violated traffic laws.
  • This comes as Amazon and GM have faced scrutiny of their own.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched an investigation of Waymo in its latest effort to gauge robotaxi safety.

The agency opened the preliminary probe after receiving reports of 22 incidents where Waymo robotaxis were either the only active vehicles in a collision or possibly violated traffic safety laws. The crashes involved stationary objects like parked cars and gates, while the potential violations included driving into opposing lanes or venturing into construction zones.

Waymo’s autonomous system, Driver, was either in use the entire time or else deactivated by a human backup driver right before an incident.

In a statement to Techopedia, Waymo said the NHTSA had a “very important role” in safety and that the company would keep collaborating as it sought to make the world’s “most trusted driver.” The company pointed to a track record of tens of millions of safe trips, including more than 50,000 passenger rides each week.

The case comes almost immediately after the NHTSA opened an investigation into Amazon’s Zoox over two crashes with motorcycles. The autonomous test cars suddenly applied their brakes, giving motorcyclists no chance to avoid a crash.

GM’s Cruise is only now starting to resume limited driverless operation months after an October 2023 collision that injured a pedestrian in San Francisco. California temporarily banned Cruise from operating in the state, and the upheaval led to executive departures including founder Kyle Vogt.

Waymo, Zoox, and Cruise have all argued that their driverless car technology is ultimately safer than having a human at the wheel. However, the collisions and other incidents suggest that these companies have a while to go before their platforms can handle the edge-case scenarios in real-world driving.