A Waymo self-driving car which crashed into barriers on a California freeway was caused when the safety driver fell asleep behind the wheel unwittingly turned off the vehicle’s autonomous software by touching the gas pedal.
According to a report in Quartz, the driver didn’t react to any of the car’s warnings, including a bell which goes off when the vehicle changes from autonomous to manual mode, and also another audio alert. Luckily for Waymo, on this occasion no one was injured, although the vehicle was left with damage to its tire and bumper. A spokesperson for Waymo told The Information that the company is constantly improving their practices because safe and responsible testing of their technology is integral to everything they do. New protocol put in place after the crash now sees two safety drivers sit in during all night time testing — a second driver to keep an eye on the first driver. Waymo CEO John Krafcik believes that fully autonomous vehicles will one day elimante thousands of preventable highway fatalities a year.