Waymo Has Recalled Its Robotaxis After Two Cars Crashed Into The Same Truck

Waymo, a leading player in the self-driving car industry, has initiated its first-ever voluntary recall of the software powering its robotaxi fleet following two minor crashes involving towed pickup trucks in Phoenix, Arizona, in December.

Despite the crashes being termed as minor and occurring without passengers onboard, Waymo’s chief safety officer, Mauricio Peña, emphasized the company’s commitment to safety and transparency. The affected software was deployed to the entire fleet by January 12 after Waymo developed, tested, and validated a fix.

The recall comes amidst heightened scrutiny surrounding autonomous vehicles due to a series of incidents and controversies. Notably, a recent collision involving a Waymo robotaxi and a cyclist raised concerns, while another incident involved the vandalism and burning of a Waymo vehicle in San Francisco. Cruise, a competitor, has suspended its operations following a crash in October and has appointed its first chief safety officer in response.

The December crashes prompting the recall occurred when Waymo vehicles encountered a pickup truck being towed in reverse, causing a mismatch in predicted motion, leading to contact with the truck. Despite minor damages to the vehicles, the tow truck continued without stopping, resulting in a second collision minutes later.

Waymo promptly reported the incidents to relevant authorities and initiated conversations with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), eventually leading to the voluntary recall of the software.

Waymo’s decision to recall its software adds more pressure because people are worried about how safe self-driving cars are. In Los Angeles, different groups, like the Teamsters union, are worried too. Also, the California Department of Motor Vehicles is looking into a crash where a self-driving car hit a cyclist. Besides, government agencies like the Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are checking how Cruise handled its crash last October.

In summary, Waymo’s choice to recall its software shows it cares about safety and being open about how its self-driving cars work. Even though the crashes weren’t serious and nobody got hurt, they show how tricky it is to deal with real-world situations. As self-driving technology keeps advancing, incidents like these remind us to stay watchful, work with regulators, and make sure safety concerns are addressed for self-driving cars to become a normal part of our lives.

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