Waymo Answers Some Questions About Hitting a Pedestrian in San Francisco

Waymo tells autoevolution more details about making "contact with a pedestrian" in San Francisco 8 photos
Photo: KWillets/Reddit
Modified Jaguar I-PACE Used by WaymoWaymo Fleet of Autonomous VehiclesModified Chrysler Pacifica Used by WaymoModified Chrysler Pacifica Used by WaymoModified Jaguar I-PACE Used by WaymoWaymo Vehicle Picks Up Passengers in San FranciscoReddit User KWillets reported that a Waymo car hit a pedestrian in San Francisco
Waymo already disclosed that the vehicle that struck a pedestrian in San Francisco on December 15 was not being driven autonomously. However, we wanted to clarify other aspects of the crash. While it is still investigating what happened, Waymo answered all our questions.
The first thing the autonomous driving tech company told us was that Waymo cars perform both autonomous testing and manual testing. The latter uses drivers to help the company collect data. The idea with manual testing sessions is to train and advance Waymo Driver. That was the mission the Jaguar I-PACE had on that occasion when it hit the still unidentified pedestrian.

According to the company, it left the headquarters in manual mode and was that way for over an hour. It was when the EV reached Haight Street, midblock between Webster Street and Buchanan Street, that everything happened.

We also asked if Waymo had any idea why AEB (automatic emergency braking) did not work as it should. Theoretically, it could have avoided making “contact with a pedestrian,” as the company puts it. Waymo said that it did not have further details to share at this point. Ironically, that’s precisely what the company gave us.

According to the autonomous driving tech company, having “a pedestrian wearing dark clothes at night standing in the road behind the bright lights from a vehicle passing in the opposite direction was very challenging.” It would make perfect sense if we were talking about a Tesla and its exclusive camera-based detection system, but we thought that the I-PACE also had radar for that goal. Waymo also added LiDARs to its cars, but it is not clear if Waymo adapted it to work with the AEB the electric Jaguar has.

Finally, we wanted to learn if the pedestrian hit by the EV is ok. According to Waymo, he was taken to the SFGH (San Francisco General Hospital) “with non-life-threatening injuries.” We are still trying to learn what happened when he got back home, but it is good to know he is apparently ok.

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Editor's note: The gallery contains images of Waymo vehicles in service and only one is related to the incident with a pedestrian.

About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
Gustavo Henrique Ruffo profile photo

Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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