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Phoenix cop stops errant Waymo self-driving car that was ‘freaking out’

Phoenix cop stops errant Waymo self-driving car that was ‘freaking out’
Phoenix cop stops errant Waymo self-driving car that was ‘freaking out’

Google-owned Waymo operates a fleet of self-driving vehicles in Phoenix that are licensed to operate without human intervention. They are even used for ride-sharing, and occasionally Uber offers to send a driverless Waymo car in response to an Uber vehicle’s request. The autonomous vehicles are still learning how to navigate the city, so the fleet will endure occasional mishaps. A June 19 Reddit post began with a photo of a Phoenix police officer pulling over a Waymo car, and the author asked, “How does this work?”

Arizona Central followed up on the Reddit post and obtained police bodycam footage. According to the police report, the car drove through a construction zone and, after the construction zone, crossed onto the wrong side of the road, driving against traffic. When the officer turned on the headlights, the Waymo car “freaked out” and ran a red light before pulling into a parking lot. As the officer approaches the Waymo, the car rolls down its windows. Since there is no driver inside, the empty vehicle automatically connects to Rider Support. As the officer explains what happened, the technician on the other end says he will look at the video.

The footage of the stop itself is over and we can only assume that this exchange was the end of the matter.

When AZ Central asked Waymo about the incident, the autonomous vehicle company initially declined to comment. When the newspaper said they would run the story, Waymo suddenly wanted to elaborate on the situation. Perhaps it would have been better if the company hadn’t; we just wish we could get away with such explanations. The spokesperson said the car “encountered inconsistent construction signage,” crossed into the oncoming lane when it was “prevented from rejoining the correct lane,” and ran a red light “to clear the intersection.”

Supposedly there are procedures in place to issue citations to self-driving vehicles, but police have stated that this is not the case. The Phoenix Police Department police report states the officer was “unable to issue a citation to the computer,” so that’s how it goes and life goes on. So, to the original Reddit poster: That’s how it goes. Next time we get pulled over, we’ll tell the officer we’ll watch the video and then call later and say bad signage was the problem, ok thanks, bye.

One day, self-driving cars will be a boon to us all. Until then, stay cool.

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