Another blow for driverless cars

You think you had a rough week? Waymo had one of its cars literally set on fire in the middle of San Francisco — and that’s not even their biggest problem. 

Driving the news: Alphabet’s self-driving vehicle unit Waymo yesterday recalled 444 of its autonomous vehicles after a software issue caused cars to wrongly predict the movements of towing vehicles. In some cases, the errors led to collisions, including two in Arizona.

Catch up: Waymo isn’t the only company struggling to crack the code on self-driving cars, an area that has been increasingly plagued with controversy. Both Tesla and GM’s Cruise have had safety stumbles that have made us think, “We really don’t mind driving that much.”

  • In December, Tesla was forced to recall over 2 million vehicles because of a software issue with its Autopilot system that was involved in several fatal accidents.

Why it matters: These problems aren’t limited to self-driving cars. Modern-day electric vehicles are also designed around computers that control everything from driving functions to entertainment systems, so software tweaks can have unintended consequences.

  • General MotorsVolvoLucid, and Tesla are a few EV makers that have seen disruptions because of software glitches, some of which threatened driver safety. 

Yes, but: According to Waymo data, driverless cars are still 6.7 times less likely than human drivers to be involved in a crash resulting in an injury. Plus, advancements in technology, from blind-spot monitors, to brake assist, to fatigue monitoring, have decidedly made cars safer.—LA