Waymo/Alphabet Working With Law Enforcement Agencies On Collision Protocols For Self-Driving Vehicle Crashes

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Following the extensive deployment of its self-driving vehicle test fleet in pilot testing programs around the US, Waymo/Alphabet (Google, more or less, for those who don’t follow the tech industry) has now begun working with various local law enforcement agencies on the creation of new protocols related to self-driving vehicle collisions.

As a reminder here, Waymo/Google is currently operating self-driving vehicle testing pilots in 4 different states — California, Arizona, Washington, and Texas — and has been for quite some time now. It was likely inevitable that protocols would have to be developed for local emergency and law enforcement agencies in order to deal with the novel situations being generated.

Interestingly, these protocols relate partly to what self-driving cars should be doing when they hear a siren approaching; as well as the best ways for first responders and/or police officers to access different parts of the vehicle in case of an emergency.

Recode provides more: “In a new 43-page report that Waymo published Thursday, the company detailed some of its efforts to respond to (and avoid) collisions. Those efforts can be broken up into three parts: How the cars stop in unsafe working conditions; how the cars respond to sirens/emergency vehicles; and what happens after an accident.

“All fully self-driving cars will have to be able to pull over safely in the event of a collision or a system failure. Put simply, if a car is completely driverless there won’t be a safety driver to take back manual control of the vehicle so the system will have to know when to stop and recalibrate.

“Sometimes, stopping won’t be necessary. If it’s a system failure, the backup sensors, computers, brakes and power sources will automatically kick in. The software in the car will be able to determine if a sensor or another part of the system is failing or if driving conditions become too difficult like during a snowstorm. This is also the case during a collision. The car will automatically detect the accident and find a place to stop.

“Once the car automatically detects a crash, it will send that information to Waymo’s remote operating centers. That team will then send specialists to the location as needed but will also communicate with local law enforcement.”

Waymo is also training police and first responders “how to recognize and then access a self-driving car.” These training efforts will become considerably more prevalent as the company continues deploying its self-driving vehicles, the new report notes.

Reportedly, the company’s self-driving cars operating in Chandler, AZ, have now been “trained” to pull over and stop, or to simply yield as the need may be, when sirens are seen and/or heard approaching.


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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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