• Waymo has recalled over 600 autonomous vehicles over an issue that could cause them to strike poles.
  • The recall was prompted by a crash that occurred in Phoenix last month.
  • The affected models have already been fixed with updated maps and new software.

Waymo continues to be whammied by a series of embarrassing crashes and recalls. The latest focuses on the “inability to avoid a pole or similar” objects.

The recall impacts 672 autonomous vehicles and the Safety Recall Report says that on May 21, a Waymo vehicle in Phoenix collided with a wooden utility pole located in an alley. The Jaguar I-Pace wasn’t carrying any passengers at the time, but the vehicle suffered “some damage.”

More: Waymo Under Investigation Following 22 Incidents Including Multiple Crashes

The crash caused Waymo’s Field Safety Committee to look into the matter and it was eventually determined that their autonomous vehicles could collide with a pole or pole-like object if four scenarios all occurred. These were:

  • The object was within the boundaries of the road and the map did not include a hard road edge between the object and the driveable surface
  • The Waymo ADS’s perception system assigned a low damage score to the object
  • The object was located within the Waymo ADS’s intended path (e.g. when executing a pullover near the object)
  • There were no other objects near the pole that the ADS would react to and avoid

To address these issues, Waymo developed a “fully-validated software update to improve the ADS response to pole or pole-like permanent objects” as well as “robust mapping updates and improvements to ensure that the map meets Waymo specifications near pole or pole-like permanent objects by including a hard road edge between the object and the driveable surface.” In effect, new maps better define the roadway for autonomous vehicles to use.

The updates have already been applied to the vehicles, so they should be running smoothly now. Nevertheless, it’s an embarrassing setback for the company and one that likely won’t comfort a distrusting public.

It’s also worth noting the latest incident comes roughly four months after a separate accident-inspired recall. In that case, two separate Waymo vehicles made contact with a pickup that was being towed in Phoenix.

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