The Real Story About the Safety of Waymo’s Self-Driving Car If you are a regular user of ride share services you have most likely been paying attention to the progress of Waymo One. The company is now operating fully autonomous taxis within a 50 square mile radius around Phoenix, Arizona. If it is successful there, then other states may soon see Waymo’s driverless cars zipping about on the roads.

The Google-owned company has publicly boasted an impressive safety record, claiming that any accidents the vehicles have had were the result of other vehicles. In roughly two years, Waymo’s autonomous vehicles have been involved in 18 accidents and have had 29 disengagements. A disengagement is when human driver of the vehicle, who is there in case of emergencies, has to take control in order to avoid a collision. The car accidents that occurred involving people included a pedestrian and cyclist, another driver, and other objects.

Injuries to pedestrians and cyclists have the potential to be much more devastating at lower speeds because a two-thousand-pound vehicle is no match when it comes to hitting an unprotected human body. The force is simply so great that even a minor impact can cause:

Is Waymo doing everything it can to keep you safe?

You would think that Waymo would take any opportunity to align itself with credible organizations that take autonomous vehicle safety seriously. The company declined joining Safety First For Automated Driving, which is comprised of automakers and tech companies such as Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Intel, and Volkswagen.

Their aim is on creating standards that make autonomous vehicles safe through the creation of:

  • Development processes
  • Testing phase benchmarks and protocols
  • Validation to ensure “safe” autonomous vehicles

Instead, Waymo became a member of the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets. The organization is more involved in crafting arguments to present to lawmakers to persuade them that the benefits outweigh the negatives when it comes to putting trust into the safety of self-driving vehicles. Basically, Waymo seems more interested in the legal aspects that could affect their business operations than the safety of the general public.

Your life is in the hands of counterfactuals

If you have never heard the term “counterfactual,” you need to become familiar with it if you plan to use Waymo One. A counterfactual is a situation where a live driver was forced to enact a disengagement of the autonomous system and take over to avoid an accident. Waymo tracks all of these scenarios so that their engineers can assess accident risks and determine whether anything can be corrected in the software to prevent the outcome. This means you are putting your safety into the hands of software engineers who may not have a solution to a traffic situation that could endanger your life.

What’s to say that the methods used to determine an acceptable action for the car to take won’t be based upon financial decisions at the end of the day? Programming a vehicle to react one way over another in each situation could still result in a lesser accident whereas a human driver would be able to see a way out of the accident altogether. To put their vehicles on the road, Waymo would create an acceptable risk based upon:

  • Likelihood of injury
  • Collision object
  • Impact velocity
  • Impact geometry

Sometimes split-second decisions and reactions save lives. There is simply no way to program the software to operate self-driving vehicles in a way that allows them to think and react to every situation like a human being could. Now these vehicles are being operated without a human safety net that could mean the difference between braking hard or a hard crash.

If you or a loved one has been injured by an autonomous vehicle, or by a driver who is relying solely on safety technology instead of driving ability, put your trust into the capable hands of the Mississippi car accident attorneys at Merkel & Cocke, P.A. Schedule your free consultation by calling 662-302-2979, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact form. We have offices located in Jackson, Clarksdale, and Oxford for your convenience in addition to proudly serving clients in the City of Tupelo.