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February 13, 2024

Voluntary recall of our previous software

  • Company News
Waymo's blue and green "W" company logo

Earlier today, we voluntarily filed a recall report with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for software that was previously on our fleet. We chose to do this after consultation with NHTSA and our own internal review of two incidents that occurred in a rare scenario in Phoenix on December 11, 2023, which resulted in no injuries and minor vehicle damage. Our entire fleet was updated with software to address this rare issue between December 20, 2023 and January 12, 2024. Our ride-hailing service is not and has not been interrupted by this update.

Why a voluntary recall? 

Typically a recall serves to inform the owner of a vehicle of a required repair. In our case, we’ve filed a recall notice, which serves to inform the public of a software update that we began to deploy across our fleet in December 2023. This voluntary recall reflects how seriously we take our responsibility to safely deploy our technology and to transparently communicate with the public. There are hundreds of recall reports submitted annually to NHTSA and we respect the importance of this road safety framework and our relevant legal obligations. 

More context & timeline

On December 11, 2023 in Phoenix, a Waymo vehicle made contact with a backwards-facing pickup truck being improperly towed ahead of the Waymo vehicle such that the pickup truck was persistently angled across a center turn lane and a traffic lane. Following contact, the tow truck and towed pickup truck did not pull over or stop traveling, and a few minutes later another Waymo vehicle made contact with the same pickup truck while it was being towed in the same manner. Neither Waymo vehicle was transporting riders at the time, and this unusual scenario resulted in no injuries and minor vehicle damage.

Given our commitment to safety, our team went to work immediately to understand what happened. We determined that due to the persistent orientation mismatch of the towed pickup truck and tow truck combination, the Waymo AV incorrectly predicted the future motion of the towed vehicle. After developing, rigorously testing, and validating a fix, on December 20, 2023 we began deploying a software update to our fleet to address this issue (more here on how we rapidly and regularly enhance the Waymo Driver’s capabilities through software updates).  

On December 11, 2023, we informed the Phoenix Police Department and the Arizona Department of Public Safety of these two collisions. We also promptly informed NHTSA of the incidents on December 15, 2023, and we’ve engaged in four subsequent conversations with NHTSA staff on this topic between December 2023 and February 2024. Based on our own analysis and our consultations with NHTSA, we concluded that it would be appropriate to submit a voluntary recall report of the software present on our fleet at the time of the two collisions. 

At Waymo, we are committed to improving road safety. To date, we have driven over 10 million fully autonomous miles and served over 1 million ride-hail trips, always putting safety first. Our latest research - part of a comprehensive body of work including more than twenty safety papers - found that the Waymo Driver’s performance led to a significant reduction in the rates of police-reported and injury-causing crashes compared to human drivers in the cities where we operate. As we serve more riders in more cities, we will continue our safety first approach, working to earn trust and foster transparent communication with our riders, community members, regulators, and policymakers.