US Government Investigating Waymo Autonomous Vehicles After Reports of Crashes

U.S. authorities are probing automated vehicles after reports of the vehicles crashing, according to documents made public on May 14.

Automated driving systems (ADS) in Waymo vehicles are being investigated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In the documents, which were posted online by the government, officials said they were looking into “unexpected ADS behavior” after receiving reports of 17 crashes involving Waymo vehicles.

Another five reports detailed violations of traffic safety laws.

Reported incidents included collisions with gates, crashes into parked vehicles, and apparent disregard for “traffic safety control devices,” the administration said.

The incidents took place as recently as March, according to summaries released by the government.

Officials found records of additional incidents, including Waymo vehicles driving against incoming traffic and entering construction zones.

“Based on initial evaluation of these incidents, NHTSA understands that the Waymo ADS was either engaged throughout the incident or, in certain cases when supervised by an in-vehicle test driver, the ADS disengaged in the moments just before an incident occurred,” the summary of the launch of the investigation states.

The preliminary probe will investigate the ADS performance.

Waymo taxis without human drivers have been operating in Arizona and California.

A spokesperson for the California-based company told The Epoch Times in an email: “At Waymo we currently serve over 50 thousand weekly trips for our riders in some of the most challenging and complex environments. We are proud of our performance and safety record over tens of millions of autonomous miles driven, as well as our demonstrated commitment to safety transparency. NHTSA plays a very important role in road safety and we will continue to work with them as part of our mission to become the world’s most trusted driver.”

NTD Photo
A Waymo minivan moves along a city street as an empty driver’s seat and a moving steering wheel drive passengers during an autonomous vehicle rid, in Chandler, Ariz., on April 7, 2021. (Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo)

Other Probes

Since late April, NHTSA has opened investigations into collisions involving self-driving vehicles run by Amazon-owned Zoox as well as partially automated driver-assist systems offered by Tesla and Ford.

In 2021 the agency ordered all companies with self-driving vehicles or partially automated systems to report all crashes to the government. The probes rely heavily on data reported by the automakers under that order.

NHTSA has questioned whether a recall last year of Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assist system was effective enough to make sure human drivers are paying attention. NHTSA said it ultimately found 467 crashes involving Autopilot resulting in 54 injuries and 14 deaths.

In the Ford investigation, the agency is looking into two nighttime crashes on freeways that killed three people.

The agency also pressured Tesla into recalling its “Full Self Driving” system last year because it can misbehave around intersections and doesn’t always follow speed limits.

Despite their names, neither Tesla’s Autopilot nor its “Full Self Driving” systems can drive vehicles themselves, and the company says human drivers must be ready to intervene at all times.

In addition, NHTSA has moved to set performance standards for automatic emergency braking systems, requiring them to brake quickly to avoid pedestrians and other vehicles.

The standards come after other investigations involving automatic braking systems from Tesla, Honda, and Fisker because they can brake for no reason, increasing the risk of a crash.

In a 2022 interview, then NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff said the agency would step up scrutiny of automated vehicles, and the agency recently has taken more action. NHTSA has been without a Senate-confirmed administrator since Cliff left for the California Air Resources Board in August of 2022.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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