If there ever was a good example of how much work self-driving technology still needs before it becomes mainstream, it would be a recent story of how one of Waymo’s self-driving taxis got confused by traffic cones. Thankfully in this case, there were no injuries and it was actually kind of funny.
YouTuber “JJRicks Studios” has been documenting his rides in Waymo’s self-driving taxis. In this particular instance, the car wanted to make a turn onto a multi-lane street, but as the rightmost lane was closed and cordoned off by traffic cones, it confused the car’s sensors and it was forced to stop.
Roadside Assistance was called to help take care of it, but it seems somewhere along the way, the taxi decided to make another try before stopping again, blocking traffic in the process. It backed up again while fully blocking the lane and continued to be confused even after the cones were removed.
Ultimately, Roadside Assistance was able to step in and a human driver managed to take control and completed the ride. In a statement made by Waymo:
“While driving fully autonomously through an extended work zone, the Waymo Driver detected an unusual situation and requested the attention of a remote Fleet Response specialist to provide additional information. During that interaction the Fleet Response team provided incorrect guidance, which made it challenging for the Waymo Driver to resume its intended route, and required Waymo’s Roadside Assistance team to complete the trip. While the situation was not ideal, the Waymo Driver operated the vehicle safely until Roadside Assistance arrived. Throughout, Waymo’s team was in touch with the rider, who provided thoughtful and helpful feedback that allows us to continue learning and improving the Waymo Driver. Our team has already assessed the event and improved our operational process.”