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Waymo’s Fully Autonomous Ride-Sharing Service Are Hitting the Freeways in Phoenix

Waymo’s Fully Autonomous Ride-Sharing Service Are Hitting the Freeways in PhoenixThe emergence of self-driving vehicle companies offers a tantalizing glimpse into a future where transportation is revolutionized by autonomous technology. The prospect of safer, more efficient roads and enhanced mobility is an enticing vision.

And now, that vision is here. Alphabet-owned Waymo is expanding its fully driverless vehicle operations to include Phoenix’s freeways, a departure from its previous avoidance of higher-speed roads. Initially, Waymo will offer freeway rides exclusively to its employees and their friends, gradually extending the service to paying passengers using the Waymo One ride-hailing app. Unlike traditional self-driving cars, which often avoid freeways, Waymo aims to provide faster routes, especially for customers traveling to Phoenix’s airports. Critics argue that the avoidance of highways by autonomous vehicles is indicative of their unreadiness for real-world driving scenarios. As Waymo ventures onto freeways, it plans to gather data and feedback to enhance its autonomous driving capabilities.

What are the risks of self-driving cars?

The advent of fully self-driving cars has brought about a host of technological advancements, promising convenience and efficiency in transportation. However, this transformative shift in the automotive industry also raises valid concerns, and highlights potential dangers associated with autonomous vehicles.

One significant concern revolves around the reliability of the technology. Despite significant progress, self-driving cars still face challenges in accurately interpreting complex and dynamic traffic scenarios. Unpredictable weather conditions, ambiguous road markings, and unforeseen obstacles can pose difficulties for autonomous systems, potentially leading to errors in decision-making. Back in April of 2023, Waymo’s autonomous taxis faced an incident in Downtown Phoenix where 12 Waymo vehicles reportedly got “confused,” leading to a roadblock on Roosevelt Street. The situation prompted police intervention, but without human drivers, directing the autonomous vehicles proved challenging. Waymo attributed the incident to a software glitch and promptly updated the software across its fleet within 24 hours to prevent a recurrence.

Cybersecurity is another critical aspect of the dangers associated with self-driving cars. As vehicles become increasingly connected, they become susceptible to hacking and cyber-attacks. Breaches in the security of autonomous systems could compromise the safety of passengers and other road users, leading to potentially catastrophic consequences. If an attack hits an entire fleet, hundreds of people could be affected.

Furthermore, the coexistence of self-driving cars with traditional human-driven vehicles raises concerns about the ability of autonomous vehicles to predict and respond to the unpredictable nature of human drivers. The lack of standardized communication protocols between self-driving cars and conventional vehicles may result in misunderstandings, increasing the risk of accidents.

The advancement of technology in order to improve the quality of life for all is important to the human experience, but it is critical to understand the inherent risks when venturing into new territory. When it comes to incorporating fully autonomous vehicles onto not only our city streets but the highway system as well, small and careful steps should be the way forward.

Who is liable during a Phoenix car accident with a fully autonomous vehicle?

Determining liability in accidents involving fully autonomous vehicles poses unique challenges. Several parties may potentially be held liable, depending on the circumstances of the accident. Possible liable parties include:

  • Vehicle manufacturer. If the accident resulted from a defect in the autonomous vehicle’s design or manufacturing, the manufacturer may be held liable. This could include issues with sensors, software, or other components critical to the vehicle’s autonomous capabilities.
  • Technology provider. If the autonomous vehicle utilizes third-party autonomous technology, the provider of that technology could be held liable if a fault in the software or hardware contributed to the accident.
  • Human driver. In cases where the autonomous vehicle allows for human intervention or requires a human to take control, the driver may be held liable for the accident, especially if they failed to intervene appropriately.
  • Vehicle owner. If the autonomous vehicle is privately owned, the owner might be held liable if the accident resulted from a failure to properly maintain the vehicle’s autonomous systems or update software.

Determining liability in autonomous vehicle accidents is a complex legal matter and often requires a thorough investigation into the specific circumstances surrounding the incident. Legal frameworks are still evolving, and the involvement of multiple stakeholders in the development and operation of autonomous vehicles further complicates the liability landscape. As the technology advances, it is crucial for lawmakers, legal experts, and industry stakeholders to collaboratively establish clear guidelines and standards to address these liability challenges.

Plattner Verderame, P.C., has been around since long before Waymo (and other autonomous vehicle companies) arrived here in Phoenix. Since then, we have been following autonomous vehicle cases and keeping abreast of all local, state, and federal regulations. We understand the intricacies that accompany cases involving self-driving cars. We work diligently for our clients who were injured in accidents involving these vehicles, ensuring that they receive the compensation that they deserve from all parties responsible. If you have been injured in an accident involving an autonomous or self-driving vehicle, you deserve restitution. Let us help you. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your options, call us at our Phoenix or Tempe offices, or use our contact page.