NHTSA Expands Preliminary Waymo Probe with Additional Incidents

The top U.S. safety regulator has widened its preliminary investigation into the self-driving software from Waymo. The agency initially reported opening a probe into the company earlier this month, and has now added an additional nine incidents to the 22 in the initial announcement.

These incidents were observed in videos online and involved instances in which Waymo’s self-driving Jaguar I-Pace units disobeyed traffic laws or drove into stationary objects. The investigation specifically focuses on Waymo’s 5th generation software, with the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) expressing concern that such unexpected driving behaviors may increase the risk of crash, property damage, and injury.

The agency mentioned that although it is unaware of injury allegations, several of the incidents involved collisions with clearly visible objects that a competent driver would be expected to avoid. Furthermore, a number of these incidents occurred in the proximity of other road users, including pedestrians.

Waymo has been instructed to 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 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.

The decision to widen the investigation was immediately protested by five different municipalities and organizations.

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