A new report demonstrates the teething problems that autonomous vehicles are going through as they work to improve. The NHTSA has received over 300 crash reports directly related to Waymo, Cruise, and a third autonomous vehicle company since July 2021.Despite that high figure, most crashes appear to have happened at low speeds and did not result in significant injury.
The data comes to us directly from the NHTSA and relates directly to cars with an automated driving system engaged within 30 seconds of a crash. Since mid-July the NHTSA has on file 150 Waymo crashes, 92 from a company called Transdev Alternative Services, and 78 from Cruise. General Motors had 65 and Zoox had a further 39 to round out the top five.
In total, that’s 424 crashes in just about two full years. In comparison, we told you in June how Tesla reported some 736 crashes in a similar time period. There’s a big difference between the two though. While the Tesla crashes took place all over the country, these crashes with Waymo, Cruise, and the like are happening in geo-fenced areas like San Francisco and Phoenix.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, in the majority of the crashes involving ADS-equipped cars, no injuries were reported. Despite that, officials from San Francisco are in the midst of considering how safe driverless cars really are. Recently, a Cruise robotaxi seemed to block emergency vehicles during a shooting.
As a result, Cruise has reduced its fleet operation to 50 cars during the day and 150 at night time. It’ll continue that way until the DMV completes an investigation surrounding the incident. It’s important to note that the NHTSA says these figures could be higher than the actual number of crashes. It cites the fact that multiple entities could have reported the same crash as the reason for that caution.
Cruise, in an emailed response to the Chronicle, said: “It is unacceptable that tens of thousands of Americans die every year in motor vehicle crashes –– a crisis that is getting worse, not better. Cruise is proud to have logged millions of miles in one of the most complex urban driving environments with an excellent safety record, and we’ll continue to work with NHTSA to accomplish our shared mission of safe roadways.”
Autonomous cars are far from perfect and semi-autonomous ones have a whole different set of problems. Companies that back each kind of technology say that they’re far safer than human drivers. Only time will tell whether or not they’ll prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt.