- Footage obtained by San Francisco news site Mission Local shows police trying to stop a Waymo driverless taxi.
- The vehicle was close to running over an active fire hose.
- Waymo said it works closely with public safety agencies and trains first responders to interact with its vehicles.
The driverless taxis ferrying passengers throughout San Francisco are a technological marvel — and sometimes a nuisance.
In February, a robotaxi operated by Waymo (an Alphabet company) stumbled onto the scene of a fire caused by an explosion and wouldn’t get out of the way, news outlet Mission Local reported. Police officers shouted and did everything they could think of to ensure the electric Jaguar didn’t roll over a fire hose laying across the road, body-cam footage obtained by the outlet shows.
“It doesn’t know what to do!,” one officer standing in front of the confused car shouts across the intersection to the officer wearing the camera.
“I’ll pop a flare,” the second officer says, hoping that the billowing smoke will keep the taxi from driving forward over the water line. “No! You stay!,” he shouts as he places the burning flare on the ground in front of the Waymo’s bumper.
After the officers turn away, the taxi starts inching forward again, eliciting an expletive from one officer. One goes to block its path while the other radios to the dispatcher, asking if they can contact Waymo for help.
“Got a bit of a pickle. I got an autonomous vehicle, the Waymo, it’s inching slowly and closely to one of the main water lines that the SF Fire just charged. Can’t run it over,” he says. “I don’t trust this AI.”
After speaking with a Waymo rep through the car’s speakers, one officer gets the car shifted into park. A few minutes later, someone shows up to rescue the car and drives it away.
A Waymo spokesperson told Insider that the company has improved its tech in the three months since the incident happened.
“We work closely with public safety officials to ensure the safe introduction of our technology in every market that we operate in. As part of the training, Waymo outlines best practices, shares its first responder guide and provides a phone number to reach Waymo directly in the event of a stop,” the spokesperson said.
Waymo operates autonomous taxis in San Francisco and Phoenix, and customers can hail rides through an app.
As impressive as they are, the driverless taxis on roads today still have trouble reacting to unusual situations like blocked streets or commands from first responders.
A recent viral Tik Tok video shows a police officer repeatedly gesturing for a Waymo taxi to pull over. Everyone inside the car laughs while trying to tell the officer they aren’t in control.