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Video: Unmanned vehicle get pulled over by police

by Marco van der Hoeven

A Phoenix police officer has stopped an autonomous Waymo vehicle that was driving in an oncoming traffic lane. According to Waymo, the vehicle encountered inconsistent construction signage, causing it to enter the wrong lane. The vehicle also reportedly ran a red light before pulling into a parking lot to allow the officer to communicate with a Waymo support representative.

Body camera footage released by AZCentral shows the officer explaining that the car had driven into a construction zone and subsequently into oncoming traffic. The officer noted that the car “went into opposing lanes of traffic, which is real bad,” and informed a bystander about the incident, mentioning that the vehicle continued into the intersection when signaled to stop.

Waymo spokesperson Chris Bonelli stated that the vehicle, which had no passengers at the time, was blocked from returning to the correct lane due to the construction signage. The car remained in the oncoming lane for about 30 seconds before the officer arrived. Upon the officer’s approach, the car moved away from the intersection to clear it and then stopped in a parking lot. The entire sequence of events lasted approximately one minute.

According to dispatch records cited by AZCentral, issuing a citation to the autonomous vehicle’s computer was not possible. Although Arizona law permits officers to issue tickets for traffic violations committed by autonomous vehicles, these citations must be directed to the company that owns the vehicle, which can be challenging to enforce.

Waymo communicated to Fox 10 Phoenix that its vehicles are significantly safer than human drivers, claiming they are 3.5 times more likely to avoid crashes. Previous reports from the company indicated that their cars are 2.3 times less likely to be involved in police-reported accidents.

Despite these safety claims, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently investigating nearly two dozen incidents involving Waymo’s vehicles. Recent reports have highlighted instances where Waymo and Cruise vehicles have posed risks to other road users and obstructed emergency responders. Additionally, Waymo recalled some of its vehicles last month following a collision with a telephone pole.

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