US investigating Waymo autonomous vehicles after reports of crashes or possible traffic violations

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The U.S. government’s highway safety agency is looking into more incidents involving self-driving cars, this time focusing on Waymo’s automated vehicles. Waymo, which used to be Google’s self-driving car project, is now under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The agency wants to understand why these cars have been involved in accidents and whether they are following traffic laws properly.

The NHTSA has posted details about this new investigation on its website. They decided to start this probe after receiving 22 reports related to Waymo vehicles. These reports include 17 accidents and five other incidents where the cars might have broken traffic laws. Thankfully, no one was hurt in these incidents.

Most of the reported crashes involved Waymo cars hitting objects that were not moving, such as gates, chains, or parked cars. Some of these accidents happened right after the self-driving system seemed to act oddly near traffic signals or signs. This raised concerns about how well the cars can detect and react to these traffic control devices.

Waymo operates in places like Arizona and California, where their self-driving taxis, or robotaxis, don’t always have human drivers behind the wheel. A message was sent to Waymo’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, for a comment, but no response was received by early Tuesday.

The NHTSA’s goal with this investigation is to closely examine the 22 incidents to see if there are any common issues. They will look at whether Waymo’s fifth-generation driving system, which was in use during these events, has any consistent problems. They also want to know if the system was engaged at the time of each incident or if a human driver had to take control right before the crash.

This investigation is part of a broader effort by the NHTSA to ensure the safety of automated driving systems. In the past month alone, the agency has opened at least four other investigations into vehicles with self-driving capabilities or systems that assist with driving. This shows that the NHTSA is becoming more active in regulating these advanced driving technologies.

The agency will analyze how well Waymo’s system detects and responds to traffic control devices, like stop signs and traffic lights. They will also assess how the cars handle avoiding collisions with objects that are stationary or moving slowly. This thorough evaluation aims to make sure these vehicles can operate safely on the roads.

In summary, the NHTSA’s investigation into Waymo’s self-driving cars is a significant step towards understanding and improving the safety of automated driving systems. By closely examining these incidents, the agency hopes to identify any issues and ensure that self-driving technology can be safely integrated into everyday traffic. This is crucial for building public trust in these technologies and making sure our roads are safe for everyone.

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