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Waymo Updates Robotaxi Software after Small Crashes

Waymo has undertaken a voluntary recall of the software underpinning its fleet of robotaxis in response to a series of incidents involving the collisions of 2 separate cars with the same towed pickup truck in Phoenix AZ occurring in December. Despite these collisions being deemed minor and occurring without passengers onboard, Waymo took proactive measures to address safety concerns, a significant move as it marks the company's first recall. The collisions were attributed to an "orientation mismatch" between the towed vehicle and the towing vehicle, which led to incorrect predictions of future movements by the Waymo vehicles. Following an investigation, Waymo swiftly developed and deployed a software fix to rectify this issue, with the entire fleet receiving the update by January.

Credits: Waymo

In contrast to Waymo's proactive approach, its competitor Cruise faced more severe repercussions following a separate incident, where one of its robotaxis dragged a pedestrian hit by another vehicle in San Francisco. The California regulatory authority suspended Cruise's operating license, prompting the company to halt all robotaxi operations, including those with a human driver present, for safety reviews. This sharp contrast highlights the differing responses and regulatory environments within the autonomous vehicle industry.

Despite these challenges, Waymo remains steadfast in its operations, recently announcing plans to expand testing of driverless vehicles on highways and freeways in and around the Phoenix area. This expansion underscores Waymo's commitment to advancing autonomous vehicle technology while prioritizing safety measures and transparent communication with the public.

However, the recall and subsequent investigations shed light on the intensified scrutiny – and even pushbacks – from cities, citizens, unions and government agencies, faced by self-driving companies as they navigate towards widespread adoption. Besides, Waymo is under also under investigation from the California Department of Motor Vehicles regarding a crash with a cyclist that occurred earlier this month.

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