Arizona Police: Waymo AV Not at Fault in Recent Accident

Officials say the vehicle, which was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash, was simply in the “wrong place at the wrong time.”

by Jaclyn Cosgrove, Russ Mitchell, Los Angeles Times / May 7, 2018

(TNS) — A self-driving vehicle owned by Google spinoff Waymo was involved in a crash Friday at a busy intersection in Arizona, but it was not at fault, police said.

The Waymo vehicle, Chandler Police Det. Seth Tyler said, "was in the wrong place at the wrong time, basically."

Tyler said the crash happened Friday afternoon when a Honda sedan swerved to avoid hitting another car. As a result, he said, the Honda went into opposing traffic lanes and hit the Waymo vehicle.

The Waymo vehicle was driving slowly and in autonomous mode, he said. There was one occupant in the Waymo vehicle, in the driver's seat, who suffered minor injuries, he said.

The accident, which occurred in a busy shopping area in Chandler — southeast of Phoenix — remains under investigation as police try to determine whether one of the human-driven vehicles ran a red light.

Waymo is owned by Alphabet Inc., Google's parent company.

The safety of self-driving technology has come under scrutiny in recent months.

A pedestrian in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe died in March after she was struck by a self-driving Uber vehicle. That was the first reported death involving a fully autonomous vehicle.

In California, 52 companies have permits to test driverless cars. Since September, there have been 65 crashes. Companies are required to report motor vehicle accidents.

"Those crashes by and large have been very, very minor," Bernard Soriano, who runs the California Department of Motor Vehicles' autonomous vehicles unit, said Thursday during a Future of the Automobile event in Los Angeles.

Typically, he said, the crashes involve a car that comes to a complete stop before turning right at a stop sign or red light, where many human drivers would instead come to a "California stop" — that is, slow down and continue rolling through the intersection.

As humans, "we're not used to vehicles always following the rules of the road," Soriano said.

The Associated Press was used in compiling this report.


3:45 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Det. Seth Tyler and Bernard Soriano, and with background information about self-driving vehicles in California.

©2018 the Los Angeles Times Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.