NHTSA adds incidents to preliminary probe into Waymo

Credit: Waymo | YouTube

The top U.S. safety regulator has widened its preliminary investigation into the self-driving software from Waymo, after the agency initially reported opening a probe into the company earlier this month.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent a letter to Waymo on Thursday notifying the company of additional incidents relating to the probe opened into the Alphabet-owned company’s fifth-generation automated driving system (ADS). In the letter, the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) writes that it has added an additional nine incidents to the 22 in the initial announcement, as observed in videos online.

The traffic incidents in both include instances in which Waymo’s self-driving Jaguar I-Pace units disobeyed traffic laws or drove into stationary objects. The investigation specifically looks at Waymo’s 5th generation software, and will help the agency decide if it needs to escalate the probe.

Waymo driverless rides to reach seven new Bay Area cities

“ODI is concerned that ADS-equipped vehicles exhibiting such unexpected driving behaviors may increase the risk of crash, property damage, and injury,” the agency writes in the letter. “Although this office is unaware of injury allegations, several of the incidents involved collisions with clearly visible objects that a competent driver would be expected to avoid.

“A number of these incidents also occurred in the proximity of other road users, including pedestrians.”

Waymo must provide responses about its Gen 5 Waymo software to the agency’s numbered questions by June 11, 2024.

The agency observed the listed incidents on multiple social media platforms, with most of them either including the company’s robotaxis colliding with stationary objects or otherwise violating traffic laws in ways that would be particularly easy for a human driver to handle.

Check out the NHTSA’s letter to Waymo announcing the additional incidents here.

Waymo was approved to expand its driverless testing operations to additional areas of the Bay Area and to Los Angeles in March. However, the decision was immediately protested by five different municipalities and organizations. Waymo operations could also be threatened by a bill proposed in January that could give individual communities, cities, and counties more power to decide where and how driverless vehicles can operate, if at all.

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NHTSA adds incidents to preliminary probe into Waymo
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