Waymo self-driving car hit bicyclist

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2024/02/07/waymo-autonomous-car-hit-bicyclist.html


Sounds like a human driver would likely have hit the bicyclist in this situation, too? As a bicyclist in SF myself, and who has been hit once by a less-than-observant cab driver, I avoid drafting behind a big vehicle with large blind spots.



According to Waymo

it’s certainly not in their interest to blame their own software


This is infuriating. Someone in the comments posted this article yesterday. Sorry I can’t figure out who it was but it’s very timely:


I was ready to blame the driverless car 100%, until I saw “4-way stop”[1]. Coming from an environment where a stop sign is practically an admission of failure by the designer, I’d probably use one of those genie wishes to replace all 4-way stops with roundabouts.

  1. as the agent in this situation with the ability to do the most harm and the least likely to be harmed in this collision, they still default to getting most of the blame in my book. ↩︎


It’s good we’re talking about these incidents: we need the strictest standards on self-driving tech and the move-fast-and-break-people approach is horrific.

But as an avid cyclist, I’m fairly convinced that the tech isn’t too far from saving me from the terrible, dangerous / life-threatening, thoughtless / uncaring, and just plain mean / spiteful behavior I’ve witnessed first-hand from human drivers.


Sure, I expect some spin, but have you ridden in Waymo vehicles? I find them to be pretty cautious drivers. They can see pretty far ahead and off to the side, and do a good job of tracking pedestrians, bicyclists, etc. They can’t see through solid objects, tho.


This story was in my RSS reader as I got back from a 75 minute ride.

A lorry with those “don’t filter me, I have massive blind spots and might crush you” signs on it … almost moved one lane to the right to overtake me, then attempted to crush me by merging back into my lane with me about halfway along his side, as we were at a red light.


Sounds like they’ve got self-driving cars up to the level of human drivers.


I agree that the cyclist shares the blame here. And I cycle.
However, in cities where trucks, automobiles, pedestrians, and cycles are expected to share the roads, having an autonomous vehicle with Formula 1 driver level starting reflexes is not a good programming decision. If the cyclist had NOT been there, just how close would the Waymo have come to the back of the truck as they passed each other? The cyclist was drafting, so I’m guessing the gap could have been as tight as 5 feet.


Yeah, it’s not a proper ride unless someone tries to kill you. /s

My plated 250cc gas scooter can break any speed limit in the province, it’s not at all small, but it’s the same shape as those curb-hugging electrics, so some drivers make assumptions.


The tech will never save you. Good oversight and accountability might, but expecting tech companies to save you is very much waiting for the face-eating leopards to save you


Apparently from their own press release description of the event they think they can because they drove into a space as if it didn’t have a vulnerable user in it. So either they can see through walls and failed to this time, or their software is reckless as to the safety of road users that aren’t encased in large metal boxes. It drove into a cyclist ahead of it. At sufficient speed that “heavy braking” didn’t suffice to not drive into another road user.


Probably better. At a 4 way stop either both vehicles should have entered at the same time or proceeded to simply wait until the other decided to enter the intersection and then play a game of, “Oh no sorry, you can go.”

That was me. And yes, beta tests of cars on public streets is another (literal) expression of SV techbro “Effective Accelerationism”.


“making contact with relevant authorities”

Seems like they are all about making contact with people.


Be careful in your genie wishes. Denver has replaced a bunch of small intersection stop signs with miniature roundabouts. They are terrifying on a bicycle - which I use to commute through several of these. No one has a stop sign. They are theoretically ‘all yield’, but cars don’t yield to bikes, basically ever, ,even when you are in the mini circle (and I mean mini, they just poured raised asphalt in the middle of an intersection & swapped the stop signs for yield signs). Also, since no one uses turn signals, you can’t tell if the car coming at you is going to turn and hit you in the circle, or go ‘straight’ through. it is a horror show.


The Waymo intersection next - there couldn’t have been another vehicle behind the truck because that’s not how a 4 way stop works. The only other scenario that mimics what happened here would be a 4 way stop with a pedestrian crossing on the left side to the Waymo (where it would be turning into). Since there was no stop light here I doubt there would be a cross to walk type of sign, it may simply be up to the pedestrian to cross when it is clear. The truck would have went straight, pedestrian entered cross walk and was hidden behind truck, and Waymo turns left toward crosswalk potentially hitting the pedestrian. If the bicycle was a vehicle then it entered the intersection illegally. I realize cyclists do not have to follow all of the same rules as vehicles, but he entered at the wrong sequence point in a blind spot.

Realistically the Waymo should be programmed to only move into the intersection once the proceeding vehicle has exited. With human drivers what they are and the general understanding that 4 way stop interactions are as complicated as quantum mechanics it is very possible the Waymo would take multiple rounds to exit if all other vehicles entered ahead of it.

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San Francisco averages about one bike-vehicle crash a day, over 99% with human drivers. Would be interesting to compare robot/human drivers once the robot populations are high enough to form a valid statistic.


This. I absolutely hate beta testing technology in real dangerous scenarios, but my cyclist brain cannot disconnect these situations from the terror I feel on the road when a real human does something dangerous and unwarranted and the numerous stories of real dead cyclists from being hit by humans. Human drivers who bring all of their damaged decision making and personal baggage on the road represent a low bar to overcome.