Waymo Recalls Robotaxis to Give Telephone Poles a Higher ‘Damage Score’

Before the update, Waymo's taxis weren't afraid of no poles.
Nico DeMattia Avatar
Authorities stand by a Waymo vehicle that has crashed into a telephone pole.
12News via YouTube

Waymo is updating its self-driving fleet’s “damage scoring” after one of its unoccupied Jaguar I-Pace EVs self-drove into a telephone pole. Looks like the cars didn’t consider those particular objects enough of a threat to avoid them. Waymo issued a voluntary recall to rectify the situation, but the concept of damage scores assigned to various obstructions is nevertheless funny and unsettling at the same time.

According to The Verge, the Waymo taxi was driving down a narrow alley, on its way to pick up a passenger. The alley was lined with street-level telephone poles placed within yellow lines, and the driverless I-Pace crashed into one while trying to pull over. The would-be passenger didn’t see the crash but did hear it, according to 12News.

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Following the crash, Waymo updated all 672 vehicles in its fleet, to upgrade telephone poles to a higher damage score. This update is reportedly done in person, at the company’s shop by its engineers, rather than with an over-the-air update.

Waymo then filed the voluntary recall with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). “We have already deployed mapping and software updates across our entire fleet, and this does not impact our current operations,” said Waymo spokesperson Katherine Barna, in a recent statement. “As we serve more riders in more cities, we will continue our safety first approach, working to earn trust with our riders, community members, regulators, and policymakers.”

Thankfully, the issue seems to have been solved already and no one was hurt in this Jaguar-versus-pole collision.

The NHTSA had already opened an investigation into Waymo last month, after a run of 22 different incidents involving its self-driving vehicles. At least the Google-backed company is acting responsibly and not only fixing issues as they arise but reporting them (as well as the solutions implemented) to the authorities. Personally, I’d love to see what other potentially crash-worthy objects have low damage scores, given that we now know Waymo robotaxis don’t flinch at the sight of telephone poles.

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