May 14, 2024 - Business

Waymo faces federal probe over self-driving cars

A white crossover equipped with self-driving car systems drives near the ocean

A Waymo autonomous self-driving Jaguar drives along Venice Beach on March 14 in Los Angeles. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Self-driving car firm Waymo is facing a new federal investigation into crashes involving the Alphabet division's autonomous vehicles.

Why it matters: The promising but still nascent sector is under scrutiny as regulators examine whether self-driving cars are fit for the road.

Driving the news: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) said it had opened a probe into Waymo on Monday.

  • Investigators flagged 22 incidents with Waymo's self-driving cars where they were "the sole vehicle operated during a collision" or "exhibited driving behavior that potentially violated traffic safety laws."
  • "Reports include collisions with stationary and semi-stationary objects such as gates and chains, collisions with parked vehicles, and instances in which the (system) appeared to disobey traffic safety control devices," ODI said.

The other side: A Waymo spokesperson said the company is "proud of our performance and safety record over tens of millions of autonomous miles driven, as well as our demonstrated commitment to safety transparency" and will work with the agency.

  • Waymo, which operates vehicles in certain areas of California and Arizona, says it's currently providing more than 50,000 trips weekly.

The intrigue: NHTSA also recently opened an investigation into the safety of Zoox, after multiple reports that vehicles outfitted with the Amazon company's self-driving technology had "unexpectedly braked suddenly."

  • And NHTSA is investigating whether Tesla adequately fixed its Autopilot system after the agency said the technology failed to protect drivers and passengers in hundreds of cases.
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