Waymo services driverless car software after Phoenix truck collision

Alphabet owned autonomous vehicle biz files voluntary recall report

Self-driving car company Waymo – a subsidiary of Google owner Alphabet – has voluntarily filed a recall report after one of its vehicles collided with a truck in Pheonix.

The company said it had chosen to file the report with the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for software previously running on its fleet after a consultation with the watchdog and its own internal review of two incidents.

The recall took place after what the company called the "rare scenario" in Phoenix, Arizona on December 11, 2023, "which resulted in no injuries and minor vehicle damage," according to a statement.

The company said its entire fleet was updated with software to address the "rare issue" between December 20, 2023 and January 12, 2024. The ride-hailing service was not interrupted by this update, it said.

During the incident, a Waymo vehicle hit a backwards-facing pickup truck, which, according to Waymo, was being improperly towed ahead of the autonomous vehicle.

Waymo said the pickup truck was angled across a center turn lane and a traffic lane.

"Following contact, the tow truck and towed pickup truck did not pull over or stop traveling, and a few minutes later another Waymo vehicle made contact with the same pickup truck while it was being towed in the same manner. Neither Waymo vehicle was transporting riders at the time, and this unusual scenario resulted in no injuries and minor vehicle damage," the statement said.

The company recall is designed to let vehicle owners know about the need for a repair, in this case a software update that Waymo deployed across its fleet in December 2023.

"This voluntary recall reflects how seriously we take our responsibility to safely deploy our technology and to transparently communicate with the public. There are hundreds of recall reports submitted annually to NHTSA and we respect the importance of this road safety framework and our relevant legal obligations," Waymo said.

The recall is the company's second spot of trouble in a week.

An angry mob destroyed a Waymo self-driving taxi in San Francisco several days ago. Following Chinese New Year celebrations, the vehicle was surrounded, its windows were broken, and a firework lit inside. It ultimately set light to the whole vehicle, according to reports.

Waymo said it recalled the software due to the persistent orientation mismatch of the towed pickup truck and tow truck combination. The autonomous vehicle "incorrectly predicted the future motion of the towed vehicle." The software update was designed to address the issue. The company said it informed the Phoenix Police Department and the Arizona Department of Public Safety of the two collisions on December 11 and the NHTSA on December 15, 2023.

The company said its vehicles had driven more than 10 million fully autonomous miles and served upwards of 1 million ride-hail trips. Waymo research found that its vehicles' performance "led to a significant reduction in the rates of police-reported and injury-causing crashes compared to human drivers in the cities where we operate." ®

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