Waymo releases Arizona crash video, stresses van was operating in manual mode

A Waymo self-driving van was involved in a car accident on Friday, May 4, in Chandler, Arizona. The Waymo van was traveling at a slow speed in manual mode and was not the vehicle responsible for the crash, according to police. The van was hit by a car driving eastbound into westbound lanes. Video footage released by Waymo shows what happened mere seconds before the crash.

Waymo stresses the van was not in autonomous mode at the time of the crash, a statement which contradicts the reports that emerged immediately after the accident. One of its test drivers was behind the wheel and in full control of the vehicle. The video shows a gray Honda Civic swerving left to avoid hitting a third car that ran a red light. The Civic veered over the median, ended up into the oncoming lanes, and slammed into Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica-based prototype. Both cars look totaled, and the impact was serious enough to send Waymo’s test driver to the hospital.

The Chandler police department confirmed Waymo’s comments, adding the Pacifica was not the “violator vehicle,” ABC 15 News reported.

Twitter user Matt Jaffee posted a photo of the accident scene at 3:40 p.m. PT. Jaffee tweeted: “Right now: Pretty gnarly crash with an @Waymo van in Chandler, AZ. No visible injuries.”

Chandler Police Department spokesman Seth Tyler said this collision is the first accident involving a Waymo vehicle in Chandler this year, according to ABC News 15.

There have now been two vehicle accidents involving autonomous vehicles in the Phoenix area. In March, an Uber self-driving car struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. The accidents happened in completely different circumstances and are not in any way related. It’s too early to tell whether Waymo’s prototype could have detected the oncoming Civic and avoided the collision if it had been in autonomous mode before the accident happened.

Since Waymo isn’t at fault, there’s no reason to assume the accident will force it to temporarily halt (or reevaluate) its autonomous car program. It’s moving full-speed ahead. In November, Waymo announced it would test self-driving cars with no human backup driver behind the wheel, ABC 15 reported. A Waymo employee would be in the vehicle, but in the back seat. Arizona gave Waymo transportation network company (TNC) status in January. TNC status means Waymo can charge riders for service. Riders can hail a Waymo autonomous van with the Waymo app.

Updated: Added video from Waymo, latest information about the crash.

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