A Waymo self-driving Jaguar I-Pace that struck a pedestrian in San Francisco on Wednesday evening was in manual mode, the company told TechCrunch in response to an initial report posted on Reddit. Waymo says the vehicle was in manual mode at the time, meaning the human safety driver who was behind wheel was actually driving.
The Reddit post from KWillets that described the event included a photo that showed a Waymo test vehicle parked in the Lower Haight neighborhood in San Francisco. A fire truck and several first responders are also shown at the scene. The post from KWillets, who describes witnessing the aftermath of the crash, reads:
Just when we thought 2021 couldn’t get worse, we heard a thump. I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Our neighbors had gotten out of a ride share on the far side and one crossed while the other stayed behind apparently taking a picture. An SFPD patrol stopped to say something to her about being careful crossing the street(?), when a Waymo passed in the near lane and hit the one who had already crossed, as I think he returned. The victim was conscious and standing afterwards, but went to SFGH for a more accurate diagnosis. Hope he’s OK.
You can say there’s no such thing as Waymo, but as for me and Grandpa, we believe.
The incident was then picked up on Twitter, where it received more attention. In one exchange with well-known Tesla fan Omar Qazi, who tweets under WholeMars Catalog, a Waymo spokesperson responded and said the vehicle was in manual mode.
TechCrunch reached out to Waymo, which also provided this statement:
Yesterday evening [12/15], one of our vehicles was involved in a manual collision in San Francisco on Haight St. midblock between Webster and Buchanan.The vehicle was being driven in manual mode when it made contact with a pedestrian in the road. The pedestrian was treated for injuries at the scene and was transported to the hospital in an ambulance. The trust and safety of the communities in which we drive are paramount to us, and we will continue investigating this incident in partnership with local authorities.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles regulates autonomous vehicles in the state. The collision occurred when the Waymo vehicle was on a “manual-only mission,” which means it does not meet the criteria for a reportable collision under the DMV’s AV testing regulations, a spokesperson said. However, Waymo will adhere to another DMV state regulation that requires all traffic crashes on roads that involve injuries or significant property damage to be reported.
Waymo has been testing its autonomous vehicles in California for years, particularly in and around Mountain View and San Francisco. Waymo has been ramping up its testing activity in San Francisco, which has brought more attention to autonomous vehicles in general, and more specifically to the company. For example, Waymo found itself on the local news after a steady stream of the company’s self-driving cars kept going down the same dead end street, forcing them to make u-turns.
While Waymo doesn’t provide exact numbers on its autonomous vehicle fleet size, the company told TechCrunch it has “hundreds of vehicles in San Francisco. Its activity in San Francisco has increased in 2021, particularly since August when the company launched its Trusted Tester program, which opened up its research program beyond employees and to some members of the public. Under the program, San Franciscans are able to hail an autonomous ride in one of Waymo’s all-electric Jaguar I-PACE vehicles. A safety driver is still behind the wheel.