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How Many Waymo, Cruise Driverless Cars Have Crashed?

As Cruise and Waymo face criticism from San Francisco officials over the safety of driverless cars, data shows the robotaxis are among the leaders in crashes reported involving vehicles with automated driving systems.

Crash sign
(TNS) — As Cruise and Waymo face criticism from San Francisco officials over the safety of driverless cars, data shows the robotaxis are among the leaders in crashes reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration involving vehicles with automated driving systems.

The data, which was reported to the NHTSA beginning in July 2021, showed that Waymo vehicles had the highest number of crashes, 150, among vehicles equipped with automated driving systems. Cruise was third, tallying 78 crashes as of July 15. In second place, with 92 crashes, was Transdev Alternative Services, a San Jose firm that contracts with cities, airports and universities.

The agency notes that the listed crashes may be higher than the actual number of incidents due to several factors, including multiple sources for the same crash, multiple entities reporting the same crash, and multiple entities reporting the same crash but with varying information.

Automated driving systems, which the NHTSA notes are still in development, are designed to self-drive cars for sustained periods of time. Entities named in the NHTSA's general order, which includes Waymo and Cruise, must report a crash if the system was in use within 30 seconds of the crash and if it caused property damage or injury.

"The General Order allows NHTSA to obtain timely and transparent notification of real-world crashes associated with ADS and Level 2 ADAS (advanced driver assistance system) vehicles from manufacturers and operators. With these data, NHTSA can respond to crashes that raise safety concerns about ADS and Level 2 ADAS technologies through further investigation and enforcement. If NHTSA finds a safety defect, it will take action to ensure that unsafe vehicles are taken off public roads or remedied, as appropriate," a statement on NHTSA's website said.

In a majority of the collisions, ADS-equipped cars crashed into other passenger cars, trucks or vans. However, in a majority of the cases, no injuries were reported. The data does not identify the location of the crashes, but according to each of their websites, both Cruise and Waymo maintain limited operations in San Francisco and Phoenix. Cruise also operates in Austin.

Less than a week after state regulators approved Cruise and Waymo's unrestricted expansion across the city, San Francisco asked that it reverse that approval, citing safety concerns and arguing the city would "suffer serious harm."

Both companies, especially Cruise, have come under fire after recent traffic mishaps in San Francisco. After two separate crashes Thursday night, the California Department of Motor Vehicles cut Cruise operations within the city in half, pending an investigation.

In one of the incidents, a Cruise vehicle collided with a fire truck in an intersection after failing to yield to an emergency vehicle, which the company said was driving in the oncoming lane of traffic with its sirens blaring.

In another incident that prompted public uproar, a stalled Cruise robotaxi appeared to be blocking emergency vehicles responding to June's mass shooting in the Mission District. Cruise denied the incident and said that a lane of traffic remained open beside the taxi. The company said an employee arrived at the scene within a half hour to remove the car.

"Potential safety issues with vehicles operated with ADS include the design and performance of sensors and other technology used to determine the vehicle's location and to identify, classify, and position other roadway users and objects," the NHTSA said in its general order.

The DMV said the reduction in operations will remain in effect until its investigation is complete and Cruise "takes appropriate corrective actions to improve road safety." During the reduction, Cruise will operate no more than 50 vehicles during the day and 150 at night.

Cruise, in an emailed response to the Chronicle, said: "It is unacceptable that tens of thousands of Americans die every year in motor vehicle crashes — a crisis that is getting worse, not better. Cruise is proud to have logged millions of miles in one of the most complex urban driving environments with an excellent safety record, and we'll continue to work with NHTSA to accomplish our shared mission of safe roadways."

Waymo did not respond to a request for comment.

© 2023 the San Francisco Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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