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Waymo Accidents Continue in California

Are these self-driving cars' mistakes worse than human error?

By Sharon FeldmanPublished 27 days ago 2 min read
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Waymo Accidents Continue in California
Photo by Brock Wegner on Unsplash

In recent years, Waymo, Alphabet's autonomous car, has been leading the development of self-driving technology. However, a series of incidents involving Waymo vehicles has cast a light on the complexities and safety challenges that come with autonomous driving systems.

The first incident, which occurred in February, involved a driverless Waymo car colliding with a cyclist in San Francisco, resulting in minor injuries. Despite being stationary at a four-way intersection, the Waymo vehicle was blindsided when a cyclist, obscured by a large truck, unexpectedly turned into its path. This collision prompted an investigation by the San Francisco Police Department to determine the underlying cause.

April brought another concerning event to light when a Waymo robotaxi was observed driving in the opposite travel lane against oncoming traffic in downtown San Francisco. Cyclists captured footage of the Waymo vehicle crossing a double solid yellow line onto the eastbound lane, closely trailing a crowd of electric scooter riders and unicyclists. Despite the presence of a passenger and the vehicle's detection of potential risks within the crowd, it remained in the opposing lane for an extended period out of an abundance of caution for vulnerable road users.

These incidents underscore the challenges faced by autonomous vehicles when navigating complex urban environments, particularly those teeming with pedestrian and cyclist traffic. San Francisco's intricate street layout has proven to be a formidable testing ground for cars, highlighting the need for safety measures and continuous technological refinement.

Waymo's recent collision in West Los Angeles further demonstrates these concerns. This time, a Waymo vehicle was involved in a two-car collision on the 10 Freeway near Bundy Drive, resulting in mild to moderate injuries for both drivers. Although an individual was present in the driver's seat of the Waymo vehicle, its self-driving capabilities were activated at the time of the crash, prompting inquiries into the vehicle's ability to respond effectively to unforeseen circumstances and avoid accidents.

As Waymo and other companies forge ahead with the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles, ensuring the safety of all road users is extremely important. These incidents serve as reminders of the complexities of autonomous driving technology, and the need to address challenges and maintain public trust in the safety of self-driving vehicles.

NHTSA Investigation

The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has opened an investigation into Waymo due to these accidents as well as others. Some Waymos have been involved in single crashes not involving other cars, and others have broken traffic laws, totaling 22 incidents and prompting an investigation. Ironically Waymo had just recently received approval from California to begin operating in Los Angeles, and already it’s causing accidents resulting in injuries. This situation is not unique to Waymo, as other autonomous vehicle companies have faced similar scrutiny. Each incident adds to the growing list of safety concerns, highlighting the need for further testing and regulatory oversight

So despite the potential benefits of autonomous driving, such as reduced accidents and enhanced mobility, addressing these safety concerns is essential for gaining widespread acceptance and adoption of this technology. Some critics argue that these incidents demonstrate the current limitations of self-driving technology and emphasize the importance of human oversight. Additionally, there are concerns about the legal and ethical implications of autonomous vehicles, especially in situations where the technology fails to prevent accidents.

Ongoing collaboration between the auto industry, lawmakers, and the broader community is crucial in moving toward a safer and more sustainable future of transportation.

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