Waymo Hits Pedestrian in San Francisco, Explains Car Was in Manual Mode

Reddit User KWillets reported that a Waymo car hit 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
In May, AAA released a survey that revealed most Americans feel less safe if self-driving vehicles are around. In its 2020 Mobility Study, Continental found out that 60% to 79% of respondents all over the world prefer to drive themselves. This shows how trust is crucial for autonomous driving – and why Waymo was fast to explain an accident in San Francisco.
On December 16, the Reddit user KWillets shared that a Waymo car hit a pedestrian in the Lower Haight neighborhood. He also shared a video of the crash, which we embedded below.

According to KWillets, a neighboring couple got out of a rideshare vehicle. While the man crossed the street, the woman stayed behind, apparently taking a picture. Ironically, an SFPD patrol car stopped to ask the lady to be careful while crossing the street. The video shows that, while the police officers talk to the woman, a Waymo vehicle comes from the opposite direction and suddenly stops. The patrol car then moves and gets back to check what happened.

KWillets informed that the hit person managed to get back on his feet and was conscious and apparently fine. He was taken to SFGH (San Francisco General Hospital) for more thorough diagnostics as a precaution.

A known Tesla supporter seized the opportunity to share on Twitter that “a Waymo test vehicle in San Francisco has hit a pedestrian yet again.” Katherine Barna, from the Waymo PR department, was fast to reply to that tweet and inform that the vehicle was being driven in manual mode. In other words, that a human being was driving the Jaguar I-PACE in question.

The move shows that Waymo was fast to try to preserve the trust in its autonomous driving technology. At the same time, the company received some valid questions about why AEB (automatic emergency braking) did not prevent the problem. We got in touch with Waymo to try to answer these and other questions we have.

If Waymo was not concerned about clarifying that its technology was not involved with the incident, such episodes could prevent tests on public roads. Worse still, they could make an even higher percentage of people prefer driving than any sort of driving automation. Not all companies have the same attention to these crucial points for advancing autonomous driving.

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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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