Waymo releases Phoenix area self-driving car incident score card

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OAKLAND, Calif. – Self-driving technology company Waymo, which opened its driverless taxi service to the public this month in the suburbs of Phoenix, said Friday that its autonomous vehicles had been involved in 18 minor incidents during tests and actual rides since 2019.

Waymo, a division of Google parent company Alphabet Inc., said it is releasing the data to improve transparency and open a public dialogue. Some residents have complained about the hundreds of Waymo vans driving around town, telling Reuters in the past that their driving was dangerous because they stopped too often and risked being chased by a human driver.

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Waymo also said it hopes his safety data will help companies and regulators set industry-wide safety standards for self-driving cars.

According to the data, Waymo vehicles in Phoenix had one minor incident for about every 339,000 miles traveled, and a further 29 incidents were avoided with the intervention of a safety driver. That amounted to once every 210,000 km. Yet none of the events, including those that were prevented, would have resulted in serious injuries.

According to the data, Waymo cars have been rear-ended 11 times. Matthew Schwall, chief of field safety at Waymo, told reporters in a briefing that an analysis of Phoenix operations shows his cars were no more in the back than the average human-powered vehicle there.

He said that of the incidents recorded in Arizona, eight of the major incidents involved human error. He also said Waymo’s self-driving technology could always prevent incidents such as hitting a solid object or leaving a roadway. These, he noted, are frequent incidents involving human drivers that can lead to fatalities.

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Schwall declined to say whether Waymo would regularly release collision and safety data.

(Reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee, additional reporting by Paul Lienert; edited by David Gregorio)

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