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

A passenger-only Waymo robotaxi is seen on a test drive in San Francisco, California, United States, on December 9, 2022.

Paresh Dave | Reuters

Waymo has filed a voluntary recall notice with federal vehicle safety regulators for software previously used in their driverless cars, the company announced Tuesday, marking a first for AlphabetThe self-driving vehicle unit of.

In a company blog post Tuesday, Waymo said the company chose to make the voluntary recall after consulting with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and its internal review of two crashes that occurred in Phoenix on Dec. 11, 2023, in which two robotaxis crashed into the same towed pickup truck within minutes of each other.

The NHTSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The two collisions involving their robotaxis resulted in only minor damage to the vehicles and no injuries, Waymo said in the post. According to the post, there were no passengers on board the vehicles.

Waymo spokeswoman Katherine Barna said Waymo’s automated driving system, or ADS, incorrectly predicted the “future movement of a towed vehicle” and the company’s voluntary recall included updating its software to fix this problem. The company updated the software when the cars were returned to Waymo depots for regular maintenance and charging, not over the air or via remote software updates, Barna added.

The software updates were completed by Jan. 12 and did not disrupt Waymo’s ride-hailing service, Barna said.

Waymo currently operates its Waymo One driverless ride-hailing service in Phoenix, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Austin. The company has about 700 vehicles total in the Waymo One fleet, with a couple hundred cars in each of its fully autonomous Waymo One service areas, Barna said.

There has been some public backlash over driverless vehicles and how they are being tested and rolled out on public roads in recent months, following collisions and concerns about the impact of automation on drivers’ jobs.

Waymo has generally faced the least public criticism, in part because of its public affairs communications with agencies such as NHTSA and local first responders. Waymo says it has driven 10 million miles fully autonomously and taken more than one million ride-hail trips.

However, in the fourth quarter of 2023, the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended deployment and testing permits previously issued to Waymo competitor Cruise, owned by GM.

The revocation of those licenses followed an Oct. 2, 2023 incident in which a pedestrian in San Francisco was dragged 20 feet by a Cruise robotaxi after being struck by another human-driven vehicle.

Another potential competitor to Waymo, Teslahas yet to deliver an automated driving system (ADS) or robotaxi, although CEO Elon Musk has promised that a self-driving Tesla would be able to navigate across the United States without any human intervention by the end of 2017. Tesla sells instead advanced driver assistance systems that markets as “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving” options.

The California DMV has filed formal charges against Tesla saying the company’s marketing and advertising are deceptive.

Last week, a driverless Waymo car collided with a cyclist in San Francisco, causing minor injuries, and the crash is now under investigation by the state’s auto regulator.

In a separate incident, unknown assailants set fire to a Waymo vehicle Saturday in San Francisco’s Chinatown during Lunar New Year celebrations. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the destruction of the Waymo car. Authorities are investigating who was responsible, NBC Bay Area reported.

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