Feds add nine more incidents to Waymo robotaxi investigation

Federal safety regulators have uncovered nine more incidents that raise questions about the safety of Waymo’s self-driving vehicles operating in Phoenix and San Francisco.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) opened an investigation earlier this month into Waymo’s self-driving vehicle software after receiving 22 reports of robotaxis making unexpected movements that caused accidents and potentially violated traffic safety laws. The research, which has been designated a “preliminary evaluation,” is examining the software and its ability to avoid collisions with stationary objects and how well it detects and responds to “traffic safety control devices,” such as cones.

The agency said Friday it has added nine more incidents since the investigation was opened. Waymo could not be reached for comment; TechCrunch will update the article if the Alphabet-owned company responds.

Waymo reported some of these incidents. The others were discovered by regulators through public posts on social media and forums such as Reddit, YouTube and wrong with nearby oncoming traffic. and in construction zones.

The ODI said it is concerned that robotaxis “exhibiting such unexpected driving behaviors may increase the risk of accidents, property damage and injuries.” The agency said that while it is not aware of any injuries in these incidents, several involved collisions with visible objects that “a competent driver would be expected to avoid.” The agency also expressed concern that some of these occurred near pedestrians.

NHTSA has given Waymo until June 11 to respond to a series of questions about the investigation.

NHTSA has stepped up its investigations into automated driving technology. Earlier this month, the agency opened an investigation into autonomous vehicles operated by Amazon-backed Zoox. The investigation was launched after receiving two reports that the company’s autonomously equipped Toyota Highlanders were struck by motorcycles after the SUVs unexpectedly activated their brakes.

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