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NHTSA investigating Waymo robotaxi crashes, other possible traffic violations

Federal safety investigators are probing dozens of crashes and other incidents involving Waymo's self-driving vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Office of Defects Investigation is looking into 22 incidents in which Waymo's robotaxis were either involved in solo-vehicle crashes or "exhibited driving behavior that potentially violated traffic safety laws."

The incidents included 17 collisions and other reports of the autonomous vehicles driving on the wrong side of the road.

A subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet, Mountain View-based Waymo operates robotaxis without human drivers in California and Arizona. 

"At Waymo we currently serve over 50 thousand weekly trips for our riders in some of the most challenging and complex environments," said a Waymo spokesperson in an email to KPIX. "We are proud of our performance and safety record over tens of millions of autonomous miles driven, as well as our demonstrated commitment to safety transparency. NHTSA plays a very important role in road safety and we will continue to  work with them as part of our mission to become the world's most trusted driver."

In February, the company's planned expansion in California cities was temporarily stopped by the state Public Utilities Commission. The announced move frustrated public officials who indicated Waymo didn't consult them about the expansion. The suspension, which was for up to 120 days, was lifted in March and Waymo began operating in San Mateo County and in Los Angeles.

Also in February, a Waymo robotaxi collided with a bicyclist in San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood, leaving the cyclist with minor injuries. In another February incident, a Waymo vehicle was vandalized and set on fire by a group of people in San Francisco's Chinatown.

Word of the NHTSA investigation into Waymo incidents comes a day after NHTSA announced Amazon's self-driving robotaxi unit Zoox was being probed after two of its vehicles braked suddenly and were rear-ended by motorcyclists, one of whom suffered minor injuries.

Zoox already was under investigation by the NHTSA, which was looking into whether Foster City-based Zoox used its own test procedures to determine that certain federal standards weren't applicable because of the robotaxi's unique shuttle design configuration.

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