Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Waymo Recalls 672 Self-Driving Vehicles After Software Bug Causes Crash

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Alphabet’s Waymo (GOOGL.O) is recalling 672 of its self-driving vehicles due to a software glitch that caused one of its autonomous cars to crash into a wooden utility pole in Phoenix last May. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) initiated an investigation following 22 reports of Waymo robotaxis exhibiting behaviors that may violate traffic safety laws or demonstrate “other unexpected behavior,” including 17 crashes.

The May incident in Arizona occurred during a low-speed pullover maneuver in an alleyway, according to Waymo. The vehicle was not carrying any passengers at the time, and there were no injuries to anyone in the Waymo vehicle or the Honda, which had one occupant, said Seth Tyler, the public information officer for the Chandler Police Department.

Credit: Waymo

The recall involves a software update designed to improve the vehicles’ ability to detect and respond to poles or similar stationary objects. Waymo confirmed that this update, along with “additional robust mapping updates and improvements,” has already been installed in all affected vehicles. Before this upgrade, the automated driving systems might fail to navigate around a pole or similar object, as noted by the NHTSA.

Waymo’s recall comes amid broader scrutiny of autonomous vehicle performance. The NHTSA is investigating multiple incidents involving self-driving vehicles from other companies, including General Motors’ Cruise (GM.N) and Tesla Inc (TSLA.O). Last month, Waymo reduced its fleet of 444 self-driving vehicles after two minor, consecutive accidents in Arizona, attributing the incidents to a software error that caused the vehicles to misjudge the trajectory of a trailer on a tow truck.

Credit: Waymo

On Wednesday, Waymo disclosed that the NHTSA is examining a series of incidents that raise concerns about the performance of its driverless vehicles. The regulator noted that many incidents “involved collisions with identifiable objects that a reasonably competent driver would be expected to avoid.” These reports include crashes involving stationary or semi-stationary objects such as “gates and chains,” parked vehicles, and instances where the automated driving system “appeared to behave directly contrary to traffic safety controls.”

The NHTSA has ordered Waymo to respond to a series of questions by August 6, and to inform the regulator if any vehicles remain grounded or if any tests or updates have been conducted to address the specific incidents. Waymo reiterated its confidence in its safety record, stating, “We are proud of our performance and safety record over tens of millions of autonomous miles driven.”

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