Waymo Recalls Driverless Vehicles After Collision With Telephone Pole

Waymo, the autonomous vehicle company, has announced a voluntary software recall after one of its driverless vehicles collided with a telephone pole in Phoenix, Arizona. The incident took place on May 21st, where an unoccupied Waymo vehicle was driving to a passenger pickup location through an alley lined with wooden telephone poles. The vehicle struck one of the poles at a speed of 8mph, causing some damage.

The company is issuing the recall after completing a software update to 672 vehicles in its fleet. The update corrects an error in the software that underestimated the damage score to the telephone pole. Additionally, the map is updated to account for the hard road edge in the alleyway, which was previously not included. This marks Waymo’s second recall ever, with the first one being prompted by two minor collisions last February.

This recall comes at a time of increased regulatory scrutiny in the driverless vehicle industry. Federal investigators are currently looking into almost all major companies operating autonomous vehicles in the US. Waymo is already under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for over two dozen incidents involving its driverless vehicles, including crashes and traffic law violations.

Waymo’s approach to the recall is not traditional. Instead of taking the vehicles off the road for repairs, the company is pushing an over-the-air update to all affected vehicles. This allows them to continue operating on public roads after the new software and maps have loaded. The company emphasizes its commitment to safety and earning the trust of riders, community members, regulators, and policymakers.

Driverless vehicle companies, including Waymo, are facing public scrutiny and backlash due to incidents involving their vehicles. With the proliferation of smartphones equipped with cameras, videos of driverless vehicles behaving unpredictably or dangerously are going viral, further intensifying regulatory scrutiny and public ire. This underscores the importance of safety measures and vigilance in the deployment of autonomous vehicles.

Waymo’s decision to issue a voluntary software recall showcases its commitment to addressing errors and enhancing the safety of its driverless vehicles. The company’s proactive approach to software updates and regulatory compliance is crucial in maintaining public trust and ensuring the responsible progression of autonomous driving technology.


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