Waymo recalls software in all its cars after its robotaxi crashes into a pole

Waymo controls all the affected vehicles and said that it had issued updates to fix them after the crash.

Robotaxi company Waymo
Photo by Andrej Sokolow/picture alliance via Getty Images

Robotaxi company Waymo has voluntarily recalled software in all its 672 self-driving vehicles, according to a safety recall report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

According to the report obtained by NBC News on May 21, a Waymo vehicle driving in Phoenix, Arizona, hit a utility pole while attempting a low-speed pullover maneuver. There were no passengers in the car or injuries related to the crash, according to the report, only damage to the car. 

The passenger the Waymo car was supposed to pick up told NBC affiliate 12News last month that she was visiting Phoenix and wanted to try out the service. She said she heard the sound of the crash as she waited for her ride, which never arrived.

The report noted that the defective software could potentially pose issues in situations where a “pole-like object” was present but there was no hard road edge between the pole and the drivable surface.

Waymo estimated that 100% of its cars had the defect that caused the crash, according to the NHTSA report, which contributed to the decision to recall the software in all its cars. Waymo controls all its cars and said that it has issued updates to address the issue in its entire fleet, according to the report.

In a statement provided to NBC News, Waymo spokesperson Katherine Barna said: “Following an event on May 21 in Phoenix, we have chosen to file a voluntary software recall with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to address a mapping and software issue. We have already deployed mapping and software updates across our entire fleet, and this does not impact our current operations.”

This isn’t the first time that Waymo has recalled its software. In February, it issued a voluntary recall after two of its robotaxis crashed into the same pickup truck within minutes of each other.

Self-driving cars have come under fire for safety issues. In April, a NHTSA analysis found that a “critical safety gap” in Tesla’s Autopilot system has contributed to at least 467 crashes.

In an interview with The Verge in 2021, Waymo co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana suggested that its cars could be safer than cars driven by humans.

“The third part of this innovation is actually being less comfortable with 40,000 people being killed on our roadways every year,” she said. “Really deciding that if 94-ish percent, give or take, of those are caused by human error, then we have the opportunity to innovate and remove the human from the equation.”

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