Technology

Waymo Driver Hit a Scooter in San Francisco, No Injuries Reported

Mark Kauzlarich | Bloomberg | Getty Images
  • A Waymo vehicle struck a person riding a motorized scooter on Wednesday evening in San Francisco. No serious injuries were reported.
  • The autonomous vehicle company says a person was driving the car in "manual mode" at the time.
  • Waymo notified the NHTSA, and temporarily restricted its fleet for a few hours following the collision.

A Waymo vehicle struck a person riding a motorized scooter in San Francisco, but the Alphabet-owned autonomous vehicle developer says that a person was driving the car manually at the time of the collision.

A senior writer at Wired, Tom Simonite, first shared photos from the scene on Twitter.

A Waymo spokesperson confirmed that the collision occurred Wednesday evening in downtown San Francisco at the intersection of McAllister and Larkin streets, and said in a statement on Thursday morning:

"The autonomous specialist had recently disengaged the vehicle from autonomous mode and was driving in manual mode when the vehicle entered the intersection and made the left turn. After turning, and while still in manual mode, the vehicle came into contact with an individual on a motorized scooter."

Waymo said that no serious injuries were reported. The scooter driver removed their vehicle from the scene after the incident, while the company's car -- a battery-electric Jaguar I‑PACE equipped with Waymo's self-driving technology -- suffered cosmetic damage only.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it is not investigating the collision, and a spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department said there is an ongoing probe into the incident. The SFPD does not have a team dedicated to investigating incidents that involve self-driving vehicles.

Waymo temporarily restricted its fleet from operating in the Tenderloin neighborhood where the collision occurred for a few hours, but it continued operating as normal in San Francisco otherwise.

Waymo has been one of Alphabet's ambitious but money-losing "Other Bets." In general, driverless vehicles and robotaxi services have been slow to manifest in the U.S. due to technological hurdles and safety issues.

In 2018, an Uber test vehicle struck and killed a woman who was pushing her bicycle across the road in Tempe, Arizona, a watershed moment in the nascent self-driving industry. The safety driver in the Uber vehicle was later charged with negligence and Uber ended up selling the self-driving unit to start-up Aurora in December 2020.

But driverless technology has remained largely unregulated in the U.S., investors have continued to pour money into companies like GM-backed Cruise, Alphabet's Waymo and others despite the delays.

On Wednesday, Waymo -- which started out as Google's Self Driving Car project -- announced that it had raised a fresh $2.5 billion from its previous investors and at least one new backer, Tiger Global.

It has permits to operate its vehicles in San Francisco with or without a human safety driver on board from the California DMV. Waymo also runs a commercial ride-hailing service in Phoenix dubbed Waymo One, and a delivery business called Waymo Via, which works with UPS and others to transport goods.

While Waymo is generally regarded as one of the most responsible self-driving vehicle developers operating in the United States, its vehicles have been recorded operating in error in Phoenix by rider and video chronicler of their technology Joel Johnson.

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