Waymo saves self-driving taxi baffled by traffic cones

Illustration from the article titled One of Waymo's Self-Driving Taxis Got Baffled by Traffic Cones and Fled Its Meaty Lords

Photo: Glenn chapman (Getty Images)

The taxi got injured in the confusion!

A comedy of errors unfolded after one of Waymo’s self-driving vans became confused by a construction area, stuck in front of oncoming traffic while figuring out its next move, and then ran away from it. Waymo Roadside Assistance Team. And a Youtuber captured it all On video.

Joel Johnson with JJRicks Studios chronicled his trips in self-driving taxis from Waymo to Chandler, Arizona, on YouTube for two years, Autoblog Reports. But in her latest video posted this week, her journey takes a bizarre turn – literally.

About 12 minutes after the video begins, the car attempts to turn right onto a multi-lane road, but stops after seeing that the right-most lane is closed for roadworks and blocked by traffic cones. As the car’s internal AI system, aka Waymo Driver, ponders what to do next, a Waymo representative contacts Johnson and informs him that roadside assistance is on its way to his location. While still underway, the car pulls away to complete the turn but quickly comes to a stop between the lanes. A moment later, he backs up a few meters to stop again, this time blocking the entire taxiway.

Right around this point in the video, a construction worker arrives and begins collecting the offending traffic cones that left Waymo Driver in awe. A roadside assistance representative stops behind the car shortly after, but before he can get into the vehicle, he walks away.

After briefly fleeing from his fleshy overlords, Waymo Driver comes to a halt again, this time long enough for Roadside Assistance to get in and get behind the wheel. The human driver completed the ride and Waymo waived the charge, Johnson said.

Waymo, owned by parent company Google Alphabet, says its employees can provide Waymo Driver with suggestions on how to navigate in confusing situations, but cannot control the vehicle remotely. Engadget reports. In a statement to Johnson explaining what happened false, the company said that Waymo Driver detected an “unusual situation” (aka the construction area) and only became more confused after reaching out to a remote specialist for help:

“While driving completely autonomously in a large working area, the Waymo driver detected an unusual situation and requested the attention of a remote Fleet Response specialist to provide additional information. During this interaction, the Fleet Response Team provided incorrect directions, making it difficult for the Waymo driver to resume the planned route and forcing the Waymo Roadside Assistance team to complete the trip. “

Although Waymo acknowledged that “the situation was not ideal,” he said he kept in contact with Johnson the entire time and that Waymo Driver “drove the vehicle safely” until the help can come.

“Our team has already evaluated the event and improved our operational process,” Waymo said.

It just goes to show that there is still a lot of work to be done before we can realize our sci-fi future where everyone sneaks into driverless cars. But at least he got a free round of the event.

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