NHTSA Expands Probe Into Waymo's Self-Driving Vehicles

No matter what you think of them, autonomous vehicles will bring a range of opportunities for drivers and public infrastructure. That said, one of the most critical aspects of AVs becoming a part of everyday life is public trust, and the major players in today’s AV development race have struggled to earn and keep people’s confidence. Last year, GM’s Cruise operations shut down after high-profile accidents raised serious questions, and now, it’s Waymo’s turn under the microscope.

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Waymo Autonomous Vehicle Set Ablaze By Crowd In San Francisco

Autonomous vehicles don’t have the best track record when it comes to earning and keeping public trust, even in tech-forward California. General Motors’ Cruise is taking a hiatus testing its vehicles after a high-profile crash and recall, and most recently, a Waymo vehicle was set on fire in San Francisco.

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Waymo Autonomous Car Hits Bicyclist in San Francisco

General Motors’ Cruise division has been in the news a lot lately, but Waymo has stayed mostly out of the spotlight. That changed earlier this week when one of its autonomous taxis struck a bicyclist in San Francisco, though it appears the situation might have even challenged human drivers.

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Updated: Waymo Looks to Expand While Cruise is Down and Out

Updated with new information from Waymo after publication. We corrected dates for the company's Arizona operations, and Waymo noted that its expansion plans are not tied to Cruise's in any way.


General Motors’ Cruise has had a rough few months, ending with it pulling back on autonomous testing efforts across the country. Now, Alphabet’s Waymo is looking to expand, asking the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to grow its services in Los Angeles.

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QOTD: Can Robotaxis Ever Work?

Yesterday we covered yet another incident involving Cruise, and we linked back to a few other stories we've written recently about problems that Cruise and Waymo are having in San Francisco.

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Cruise Robotaxi Drives Into Wet Cement, More Mishaps With Fire Trucks

The robotaxi situation in California continues to get more ridiculous after additional reports of autonomous test vehicles doing something incredibly stupid. One of the driverless Chevrolet Bolts operated by Cruise apparently drove through a construction zone last week, stranding itself in wet cement. This was followed by news of yet another unsavory encounter involving a Cruise AV and an emergency response vehicle just days later.

Saying the company is fighting an uphill public relations battle would be putting it mildly.

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California Grants Cruise and Waymo Expansion Approval

Self-driving vehicles have become a contentious issue in San Francisco. The city currently serves as a public testing ground for over 500 autonomous cars being fielded by Alphabet’s Waymo and General Motors’ Cruise. But local residents have been losing patience with the vehicles, with numerous reports that they’ve been misbehaving in traffic. 

While public complaints seemed to be endangering the companies’ ability to expand operations, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted 3-to-1 on Thursday to do just that. This opens the door to allow Waymo to begin charging for autonomous taxi services, something Cruise was already doing there, and accelerate their respective AV programs within California. 

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SF Residents Disable Autonomous Vehicles With Traffic Cones

San Francisco has become a hub for companies wanting to test autonomous vehicles thanks to its progressive leadership and proximity to Silicon Valley. But local residents have slowly been losing patience with the vehicles themselves as they’ve grown in number. While malfunctioning AVs are never popular with other drivers, allowing them to operate without a human safety driver has resulted in rolling reports of vehicles clogging up traffic.

Self-driving test mules are programmed to exercise the maximum amount of caution whenever they’re uncertain of how to progress. This has resulted in traffic jams that are infuriating the locals. But it has also made them incredibly easy to defeat, with activist groups leveraging their circumspect behavior to disable them by placing a traffic cone on the hood.

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Ruff News for Waymo After Test Vehicle Runs Over Dog

A Waymo autonomous test vehicle struck and killed a small dog in San Francisco last month, with news emerging after an incident report filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles became public. While the accident is nothing in comparison to the fatal crash from 2018, where an Uber AV killed a cyclist, it still spells bad publicity for companies hoping to field self-driving vehicles with the public’s blessing.

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Driverless Cars Cause Headaches for First Responders

Driverless cars for everyday drivers do not exist, but a handful of cities in the country have allowed companies like Waymo to begin limited testing of autonomous taxis and other vehicles. Tech-heavy San Francisco is at the forefront of the movement, but its time with robo-taxis hasn’t been without drama

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Waymo Briefly Sidelines Test Vehicles Due to Fog

Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving unit, reportedly had some of its San Francisco-based test vehicles stymied by dense fog earlier in the week. Compared to some of the other incidents we’ve seen attached to autonomous test cars of late, the fog delay seems to be the most minor of mishaps. However, it’s another reminder that a lot of the systems AVs use to "see" have yet to overcome inclement weather.

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The Self-Driving Industry Looks Unwell, Waymo Layoffs Begin

Alphabet subsidiary Waymo has reportedly leaned into layoffs and everyone is wondering whether this is an offshoot of the 12,000 job cuts being made at Google or indicative that self-driving tech has run itself into a brick wall. While there’s certainly a wealth of evidence that autonomous vehicles have progressed more slowly than the industry would have had us believe a decade earlier, Waymo has arguably made some of the biggest strides in the industry.

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Not Everyone in Arizona Is a Fan of Waymo's Self-Driving Vans

Waymo, the autonomous program backed by Google-parent Alphabet, seems to have upset some residents of Phoenix, Arizona, who have elected to whip eggs at the company’s test vehicles. Selected due to its lax regulatory standards, the state has become home base for Waymo to pioneer its self-driving vans since 2016. However, newly released police reports paint a picture where the locals are far less enthused with the vehicles’ progress than Waymo’s marketing materials would suggest.

A subset of Phoenix citizens has been demanding the firm improve transparency and offer better explanations for some of the higher-profile crashes since 2018. Despite Waymo assuring the public that mishaps are rare, local reports showed some erratic behavior among the test mules operating in 2020. While a few of these incidents made the news, local police reports from Chandler and Tempe (metropolitan Phoenix) indicate there was a slew of incidents we did not know about — many of which involved encounters with frustrated, human motorists.

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FCA Strengthens Relationship With Waymo; ProMaster On Deck

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Waymo jointly announced plans to expand their autonomous driving partnership on Wednesday, with a new focus on delivery vehicles. The Google affiliate already uses Chrysler’s Pacifica as the primary testing platform for its autonomous taxi services, and it appears it isn’t eager to rock the boat, now that it needs something more utilitarian as it moves toward SAE Level 4.

While not completely self-driving, such vehicles would be capable of performing all necessary tasks under certain conditions. They may be designed for a specific purpose and lack traditional vehicle controls. Waymo seems to think they’d be ideal units for transporting goods and has asked FCA to hand over Ram ProMaster vans for conversion into test mules. It also asked the automaker to become its sole partner on the project — which is assumed to carry over once the company merges with Groupe PSA to become the Stellantis corporation.

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Former Uber Self-driving Head Declares Bankruptcy

The former leader of Uber Technologies’ self-driving unit, Anthony Levandowski, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday, and it looks to have something to do with the $179 million he’s legally obliged to pay Google. A San Francisco County court decreed the same day that Anthony needs to pay out in order to settle his contract dispute.

In December, it was ruled that Levandowski and Lior Ron violated their agreement with Google when they left the company to start Otto — a rival autonomous vehicle company focused primarily on commercial trucking. Uber purchased Otto in 2017 but Google’s self-driving arm (which evolved into Waymo) claimed Levandowski violated intellectual property laws by stealing trade secrets it owned for Uber. While Ron decided to pay $9.7 million to settle with the tech firm, Anthony held out. He also faces a federal indictment over the alleged intellectual property violation.

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  • Geozinger Put in the veggie garden (Western Michigan, we still can get frost this late in the year) finished the remainder of the landscaping updates and hand washed both my beater Pontiac and the Town and Country! Going to the beach today...
  • Rochester I wouldn't obsess over the rate of change, it's happening whether we want it or not.
  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.