Software problems: Two robo-taxis crash into the same truck within minutes - now Google is launching its first recall

The car drives through the streets as if by magic, its only passengers in the back seat.

Software problems: Two robo-taxis crash into the same truck within minutes - now Google is launching its first recall

The car drives through the streets as if by magic, its only passengers in the back seat. When they arrive at their destination, they get out without greeting - after all, there is no driver. The autonomous taxi then continues driving without anyone on board. In some cities in the USA this has long been part of everyday life. However, the provider Waymo, which is part of Google's parent company, had to announce its first recall.

The company explained this in a blog post. Two accidents occurred due to a serious error in the software, so the recall was reported to the NHTSA traffic safety authority. From December to mid-January, the entire fleet was equipped with new software. The company emphasizes that the recall was decided voluntarily: Because none of the vehicles belong to a customer and all remain with the operator, none of them were actually necessary. The aim is to inform the public in this way, according to the blog post.

The company explains that the action was necessary because of two accidents that occurred in Phoenix, Arizona at the beginning of December. Within a few minutes, two of the robo-taxis had an accident with a pick-up truck - the same one. Luckily the damage was minor and no one was injured.

However, the circumstances of the accidents are more than strange. According to Waymo, the pickup truck involved in the accident was traveling upside down and was being towed away. Apparently this caused the autonomous taxi not to recognize the car properly. And drove into him. After the collision it then stopped. However, the tow truck simply drove on with the other vehicle involved in the accident. Just a few minutes later, the exact same thing happened to the second Waymo vehicle.

Of course, the "unusual scenario," as Waymo calls it, is not a complete explanation. Finally, taxis should not drive into objects even if they are not correctly identified as cars. When looking for the cause, Waymo then recognized the problem: Because the truck was driving visually upside down in the direction of travel, the robo-taxi had incorrectly predicted the expected movements of the vehicle. The software update that has now been installed should now fix this.

Waymo is not the first autonomous car provider to have problems recognizing other vehicles. The taxi competitor Cruise, for example, repeatedly made headlines because of accidents and disruptions. Last year, for example, one of the cars was making a turn when it spotted a fire engine too late and crashed into it despite the blue lights flashing (you can find out more here).

Even more bizarre and potentially dangerous is a problem with Tesla's autopilot. The so-called "Full Self Driving" feature of Elon Musk's electric vehicles repeatedly failed to recognize emergency vehicles such as ambulances or fire engines that were parked on the side of the road - and sometimes raced into them without braking. These accidents occurred so frequently that there was even a special NHTSA investigation into them (read the entire case here).

For Waymo, the news comes at a rather unfortunate time. After competitor Cruise dominated the negative headlines for a long time - and even lost its license for use in San Francisco in the fall - Waymo has now made a name for itself several times in one week.

On Tuesday, a Waymo vehicle ran over a cyclist in San Francisco, luckily only injuring him slightly. On Saturday, citizens' anger at the self-driving cars erupted in a party area in the city: as the crowd cheered, rioters smashed the windows of one of the cars - and ultimately set it on fire. Even if Waymo was not guilty of anything in this case, such reports certainly do not help the company's reputation.

Quellen:Waymo, Techcrunch, The Verge

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