- A Waymo self-driving car side-swiped a motorcycle last month, sending the rider to the hospital.
- It was the human operator’s fault, Waymo said, after they took over from the computer driving system.
- Waymo, an Alphabet subsidiary, received the green light shortly after this incident to test fully-driverless car in California.
Human error is to blame in the case of a Waymo autonomous car side-swiping a motorcycle in California, the company says, in an accident that sent the rider to the hospital last month.
The incident occurred on October 19 near the company’s Mountain View headquarters, according to the official state accident report, when a car began merging into the same lane as a Waymo vehicle that was operating autonomously at 21 miles per hour. The driver took control of the car and began to merge to the right, when it collided with a Honda Rebel motorcycle that had just begun to pass the Waymo car.
There were no unusual weather conditions on the clear morning, the report says, and Waymo CEO John Krafcik was quick to pin the crash on human error.
“Our review of this incident confirmed that our technology would have avoided the collision by taking a safer course of action,” he said in a blog post Monday. “Our simulation shows the self-driving system would have responded to the passenger car by reducing our vehicle’s speed, and nudging slightly in our own lane, avoiding a collision.”
The incident happened about 10-days before Waymo, a subsidiary of Google-parent Alphabet, won approval from state regulators on October 30 to test cars without human backup drivers on California roads. State law requires permit holders to report any collisions involving autonomous cars to the Department of Motor Vehicles with 10 days as well as an annual report of “disengagement” or instances like this crash where a human driver intervenes with the self-driving mode,The Verge reported.
Uber, one of Waymo’s many self-driving competitors, is also attempting to get back to autonomous testing after one of its cars killed a pedestrian in Arizona over the summer. That incident, the first death attributable to autonomous cars, sent shockwaves through the industry as it races to launch commercial self-driving services.
Waymo plans to launch a ride-hailing service with its autonomous vehicles in Arizona this year, and General Motors is also on track to roll out a similar service next year, Reuters reported.
“Incidents like this are what motivate all of us at Waymo to work diligently and safely to bring our technology to roads,” said Waymo’s Krafcik, “because this is the type of situation self-driving vehicles can prevent.”