Google’s Waymo Self-Driving Car Crashes After Driver Falls Asleep

The incident, which occurred in June, apparently happened after the inattentive driver slipped their foot accidentally on the gas pedal.

Google's Waymo self-driving vehicle.
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The incident, which occurred in June, apparently happened after the inattentive driver slipped their foot accidentally on the gas pedal.

A Google self-driving car crashed into the street median earlier this summer, an accident that happened when the operator behind the wheel fell asleep during the test drive.

According to reporting from Jalopnik, the accident involving one of Google’s Waymo units of self-driving cars occurred back in June on a freeway in Mountain View, California. Some who witnessed the vehicle’s crash say the operator inside was noticeably sleeping, and it’s possible that the self-driving mechanism on the car was disabled when the driver’s foot accidentally nudged the gas pedal.

The operator did not respond to commands from the vehicle to take control of it, and alerts did go off warning the individual to take control of the car themselves. But because the person was fast asleep, he did not notice these prompts until it was too late.

The driver of the vehicle, a Chrysler Pacifica minivan, woke up after the crash occurred, turned the vehicle around, and returned to the Waymo office nearby, reported Quartz. He is no longer employed with the company.

The vehicle did not strike any other car on the road, and nobody, including the operator, was injured due to the incident. The vehicle itself only sustained minor damage, according to Waymo.

Google’s self-driving car division sought to assure skeptics that they were doing everything they could to keep people safe on the road. Waymo is “constantly improving our best practices, including those for driver attentiveness, because the safe and responsible testing of our technology is integral to everything we do,” the company said in a statement.

Although some may be skeptical of self-driving vehicles, it’s important to note that in this incident, the accident appeared to stem from human error rather than the computer inside the car. Waymo does intend to start a self-driving rideshare service in Phoenix, Arizona, later this year.

There have been other accidents with self-driving cars in the past, with the outcomes of a small handful of those incidents having dire consequences. A self-driving Uber vehicle in Tempe, Arizona, for example, killed a pedestrian in March of this year, according to reporting from Reuters.

That too, however, was deemed an accident that was “entirely avoidable” due to human negligence. The operator of the vehicle, Rafaela Vasquez, was repeatedly looking down at her phone during its route, watching an episode of The Voice instead of paying attention to the road when the vehicle hit 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, killing her due to the impact.