Tesla CEO Elon Musk Weighs In As Google Waymo Faces Scrutiny Over Emergency Response: 'Advanced AI Is Needed'

Alphabet Inc‘s GOOG GOOGL autonomous driving technology unit, Waymo, is facing criticism for its post-collision responses following an accident involving its rival, Cruise, in early October.

What Happened: On Wednesday, a social media user named Taylor Robinette posted a video showing a Waymo vehicle involved in an emergency situation. In the video, an emergency vehicle is attempting to extinguish a car that caught fire. The Waymo vehicle, upon seeing the emergency lights, tried to pull over, inadvertently obstructing the work of the emergency responders.

The user noted that the straightforward command, “‘IF emergency lights, THEN pull over to the side of the road and turn on hazards,” may not work effectively in a situation where there is a burning car nearby. 

Robinette emphasized the need for autonomous vehicles to identify and react to unexpected scenarios, which may require new, non-preprogrammed maneuvers. The user argued that these vehicles should possess a “brain” trained on vast amounts of real-world driving data, possibly alluding to Tesla’s full self-driving software.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Inc TSLA, who has consistently highlighted his company’s focus on real-world driving scenarios in full self-driving training, responded to the video. He concurred, stating, “Yeah, advanced AI is needed to solve real-world driving.”

Waymo Clarifies: Waymo said that the video is not recent but from earlier this year. The company added that it has made significant improvements since then and continues to do so.

“We're proud of the improvements we've made around emergency vehicles since then and will continue working with public safety officials, including training first responders on how to interact with our vehicles,” the company said.

Why It Matters: On Wednesday, Cruise issued a recall for a subsystem within 950 of its automated driving systems citing issues with its post-collision response. The company said the subsystem may cause the autonomous vehicle to pull over when ideally it should remain stationary, as shown in the involvement of a Cruise AV in an early October accident.

In this particular event, a human-driven vehicle traveling adjacent to a Cruise AV collided with a pedestrian, sending the pedestrian across the vehicle and onto the ground in the immediate path of the AV. The AV veered to the right and braked aggressively but still made contact with the pedestrian and pulled them forward by about 20 feet.

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