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HomeLocal NewsArizonaWaymo car caught on camera turning into oncoming traffic

Waymo car caught on camera turning into oncoming traffic

A video shared thousands of times on social media shows an the car driving into oncoming traffic in Tempe. However, an ASU professor says the cars are still safe.

TEMPE, Ariz. — Pulling up next to an autonomous car is becoming a normal occurrence for drivers in the Valley, but there are some moments that can’t help but catch people by surprise.

One of those moments was widely shared on social media recently.

The video shows a Waymo autonomous car trying to turn left onto Rural Road, just north of U.S. Highway 60 in Tempe, but it was blocked by cars waiting at the light. The driverless car then appears to “think” for a moment before turning into oncoming traffic.

“When the car is faced with something it hasn’t experienced before, yes, it can be hesitant, it can be confused, much like a human driver that’s plunged into a completely unknown situation,” Andrew Maynard, an ASU professor of advanced technology transitions, said.

This is a situation Maynard said Waymo cars will likely be programmed to learn from.

“Every time one of their cars finds something it can’t deal with or a new situation, they learn from that,” Maynard said. 

Maynard said it’s important to note autonomous car failures are fewer and farther between the successes.

“Certainly, the evidence is they seem to be safer than human drivers,” Maynard said.

Waymo said its autonomous cars have an 85% reduction in injury-causing crashes when compared to human drivers, according to 2023 data.

“Most of the time, they’re incredibly safe and even when things do happen that we don’t want to happen, most of those include Waymos being rear-ended,” Maynard said.

The Arizona Department of Transportation said the owner of an autonomous car can be issued a traffic citation if the car fails to follow traffic laws.

Maynard told 12News Waymo is also regulated on a larger scale.

“This is a technology which is still being developed. It’s not perfect but hopefully, it’s as safe as it can be, and for everything that goes wrong, we’re one step closer to having an even safer technology,” Maynard said.

12News reached out to Waymo for comment several times but did not immediately get a response. 

Arizona sports 

The city of Phoenix is home to four major professional sports league teams; The NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, NBA’s Phoenix Suns, WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Cardinals have made State Farm Stadium in Glendale their home turf and the Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix is home to both the Suns and the Mercury. The Indoor Football League’s Arizona Rattlers play at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale.

Phoenix also has a soccer team with the USL’s Phoenix Rising FC, who play at Phoenix Rising FC Stadium in Phoenix.

The Valley hosts multiple major sporting events every year, including college football’s Fiesta Bowl and Guaranteed Rate Bowl; the PGA Tour’s highest-attended event, the WM Phoenix Open; NASCAR events each spring and fall, including Championship Weekend in November; and Cactus League Spring Training for 15 Major League Baseball franchises.

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