Waymo minivan gets stubborn in Chandler SanTan Sun News

Waymo minivan gets stubborn in Chandler

May 24th, 2021 STSN Staff
Waymo minivan gets stubborn in Chandler
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SANTAN SUN NEWS STAFF

Video footage recently posted online appears to show a Waymo self-driving minivans getting confused and holding up traffic on a street in Chandler.

Joel Johnson, who manages a YouTube account of Waymo-related videos, recorded a recent ride in one of Waymo’s vehicles that ended with an employee having to take over controlling the autonomous vehicle.

Johnson’s video offered a rare glimpse into how Waymo’s employees react when one of its vehicles simply stops running before reaching its final destination. 

The trouble began when the Waymo car refused to make a right turn onto Dobson Road due to some construction cones that had been placed along the street. 

After waiting at the intersection for a few minutes, the minivan started moving again and turned onto Dobson Road. The minivan didn’t get far before it stopped again in the middle of the road, forcing other motorists to drive around it.

A Waymo employee called Johnson from inside the vehicle and the two waited for the company’s roadside assistance team to get to the immobile vehicle.

Before help could arrive, the vehicle started up and proceeded to drive down Dobson Road.

“I don’t even know what’s going on anymore,” Johnson’s heard saying as the car took off.

The minivan abruptly halted again near the Carla Vista Drive intersection after coming across another set of construction cones.

“It really does not like those cones,” Johnson remarked.

A Waymo employee eventually reached Johnson’s vehicle and hopped in to assist the vehicle until the end of the ride.

Johnson, who has recorded more than 50 rides in a Waymo vehicle, noticed how out of character it was behaving on Dobson Road.

“This has been a very fun turn of events,” said Johnson, who was not charged by Waymo for his chaotic trip.

Johnson later said this Waymo trip was notably unique compared to all the others he’s experienced around Chandler.

The purpose of recording his Waymo trips, Johnson explained, is to provide an educational resource that could objectively document how Waymo’s vehicles operate.

“I started because it seemed like there was a lack of quality content showing the capabilities of the technology and I like to make videos,” Johnson added. “I’m not financially associated with Waymo in any way–it’s just a hobby.”

In a statement released by Waymo, the company claimed the car’s bizarre behavior during Johnson’s trip was caused by some miscommunication given by employees who were monitoring the ride.

“During that interaction the fleet response team provided incorrect guidance, which made it challenging for the Waymo Driver to resume its intended route,” the company said, “and required Waymo’s roadside assistance team to complete the trip.”

Waymo further acknowledged that Johnson’s trip was “not ideal,” but insisted the vehicle operated safely until assistance arrived.

“Our team has already assessed the event and improved our operational process,” the company added.

Chandler has been home to Waymo’s Arizona headquarters for the last six years and regularly has the company’s self-driving white minivans circulating around its streets.

The company’s fleet only operates within a 100-square-mile territory in the East Valley.

Up until last year, Waymo had been having employees ride alongside customers in its vehicles to serve as backup drivers before deciding to have them operate completely on their own.

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