The fog was so dense it forced the vehicles to pull over, blocking a road.
A group of Waymo autonomous taxis blocked a residential road in San Francisco recently due to heavy fog that apparently confused the vehicles' self-driving system. The cars in question were all heavily-modified examples of the Jaguar I-Pace.
Per Reuters, Waymo, another subsidiary of Google's parent company, Alphabet, responded to the embarrassing situation. "We have software updates planned to improve our fog and parking performance to address such situations in the future," a statement said.
The vehicles rely on a technically complicated and advanced self-driving system with LiDAR sensors, cameras, and radar to navigate the roads successfully. Waymo, which recently announced the retirement of its Chrysler Pacific Hybrid fleet, clearly has some work to do because dense fog is a regular occurrence, especially in the Bay Area.
No injuries or damage were reported, but this proves the technology still has a ways to go before it can become a regular thing throughout the country. The fog somehow confused the self-driving equipment, and the system determined it was unsafe to continue driving.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, other motorists quickly got confused by the robotaxis' sudden shutdown and began flashing their lights while attempting to maneuver around them. However, one of the vehicles parked in the middle of the road while waiting for the fog to clear up, which only worsened the traffic situation. After about six minutes, the fog went away, and the Waymo train started up again and went on its way.
Still, the fact that these five vehicles stopped and parked themselves in the middle of a road with residential traffic is far from ideal. Waymo's acknowledgment of the problem is a good start, but the only solution is to fix it. This is not the first time self-driving vehicles from any company have experienced potentially dangerous problems.
Earlier this month, General Motors subsidiary Cruise had to recall 300 examples of its autonomous Chevy Bolt EVs after one of them rear-ended a San Francisco public bus. The Bolt had no passengers, and everyone on the bus was okay. The NHTSA announced an investigation into Cruise's autonomous system last December, citing safety concerns.
San Francisco is one of the few cities that allows Waymo and Cruise to test their autonomous vehicles. Other cities include Phoenix and Austin. This is not the first time a Waymo autonomous vehicle has become confused by something weather-related.
In early 2019, a Waymo Pacifica became confused by rain in a Phoenix suburb. However, this was older technology, and the vehicle in question had a human backup driver behind the wheel who could quickly correct the situation.
Autonomous vehicle technology has improved immensely since then, but, as this latest case proves, it's still not perfect.
Join The Discussion