Waymo Isn’t Going to Slow Down Now

The man running Alphabet’s self-driving company talks about the deadly Uber crash and the launch of a new driverless vehicle with Honda.

Waymo, the self-driving car company started by Google, did nothing after an autonomous vehicle run by Uber killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. It didn’t pull back on tests in the nearby suburb of Chandler, where passengers are already taking rides with no one behind the wheel. Its fleets elsewhere didn’t abandon public streets, a precautionary move made by Toyota.

John Krafcik, chief executive officer of Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, decided to wait.

“What really brought it home was the Tempe police releasing the video,” he said. He watched the grainy footage of the world’s first self-driving death. Uber’s car barrels down the road, a woman pushing a bicycle crosses into the frame, and neither the autonomous car nor its human monitor acts to slow down. The safety driver appears to be mostly looking away until impact.

For Krafcik, the crash video validated the philosophy Waymo had been following long before he joined, back when it was still part of Google: Never trust humans in cars.

“That just reinforced it,” he told Bloomberg during an interview on March 24 in Las Vegas. Later that day he took the stage at a car dealer convention and went further: If a Waymo vehicle encountered a similar situation, Krafcik claimed, the car would have avoided the death without human help.


05. April 2018

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