Waymo Self-Driving Taxi Recalled After Driving Into Pole

No one was injured in the incident, but images of the accident show significant damage to one of Waymo’s converted Jaguar I-Pace SUVs

Graham Hope

June 13, 2024

3 Min Read

Self-driving company Waymo is issuing a voluntary recall after one of its autonomous taxis drove into a telephone pole in Phoenix in May. 

As required, the recall will be filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and will take the form of an over-the-air software update to the 672 vehicles that comprise the company’s driverless fleet.

According to The Verge, which broke the news, the update will involve correcting an error in the software that “assigned a low damage score” to the pole. Waymo’s mapping has also been updated.

Although no one was injured in the incident and it is not clear at what speed the self-driving taxi was traveling, images captured by a local TV station showed one of Waymo’s converted Jaguar I-Pace SUVs badly damaged after the frontal impact.

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A reporter on 12 News spoke to Waymo customer Jericka Mitchell, who was visiting Phoenix from Arkansas, and was waiting for the taxi near the junction of 7th Avenue and Roosevelt. Mitchell said: “This was going to be our first time riding. We were real shocked. We heard the smack at first, but we didn’t realize it was the car.”

Mitchell contacted Waymo, who sent a second taxi, but it followed the same route and got stuck behind the crashed car, prompting her to abandon her plans to use the driverless service. “We’re going to take it as a sign,” she continued. 

Related:Waymo, Zoox Self-Driving Vehicles Under Investigation

Waymo said the update had no impact on its operations, but the company will certainly not welcome the negative publicity given that it is already under scrutiny from the NHTSA.

In May, it was revealed that the agency was conducting an Office of Defects Investigation following 22 reports of incidents where Waymo’s AVs “potentially violated traffic laws.”

A filing online stated: “Reports include collisions with stationary and semi-stationary objects such as gates and chains, collisions with parked vehicles and instances in which the ADS [automated driving system] appeared to disobey traffic safety control devices. In certain incidents, a collision occurred shortly after the ADS exhibited unexpected behavior.”

A further nine incidents were then linked to the probe at the end of the month.

Waymo’s only previous recall came in February, when two of its taxis came into contact with a pickup truck, also in Phoenix. Again, all the required remedial work was done remotely, via a software update.

Just last week, the company announced an expansion to its coverage area in Phoenix, which is already the largest autonomous ride-hail territory in the U.S. It added 90 square miles in Metro Phoenix, extending as far as Desert Ridge in the north, to the TPC Scottsdale golf course in the north-east and further east in Mesa. The total area covered is now 315 square miles.

Related:Two Waymo Self-Driving Taxi Crashes Lead to Software Recall

About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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