Waymo issues a voluntary recall on its self-driving vehicle software



Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving vehicle unit, has taken a significant step by submitting a voluntary recall notice for software previously utilized in its autonomous cars. This marks a notable move for the company. The decision was made after two incidents on December 11, 2023, in Phoenix, where two Waymo robotaxis collided with the same towed pickup truck within minutes.

In response to these incidents, Waymo consulted with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and conducted an internal review. The collisions resulted in minor vehicle damage with no injuries, as there were no passengers in the vehicles during the incidents.

Waymo spokesperson Katherine Barna explained that the recall was prompted by an issue in Waymo’s automated driving system (ADS), where it incorrectly predicted the future motion of a towed vehicle. The voluntary recall involved updating the software, which was done when the cars were returned to Waymo depots for routine maintenance and recharging. Importantly, the updates were not delivered over-the-air or through remote software updates. All software updates were completed by January 12 without disrupting Waymo’s ride-hailing service, Waymo One.

Waymo One, Waymo’s driverless ride-hailing service, currently operates in Phoenix, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Austin, with approximately 700 vehicles in its fleet. The company claims to have driven 10 million fully autonomous miles and provided over one million ride-hail trips.

While Waymo has generally faced less public criticism compared to some competitors, recent incidents in the autonomous vehicle industry, including the suspension of Cruise’s testing permits by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, highlight growing concerns. Waymo’s move to voluntarily recall its software reflects the company’s commitment to addressing safety issues and maintaining transparency in its operations.

It’s worth noting that the autonomous vehicle industry is not without challenges, with public scrutiny, regulatory concerns, and occasional incidents shaping the ongoing development and deployment of self-driving technology.

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