Waymo self-driving cars have all kinds of flaws

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The self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans that Google sister company Waymo runs in Phoenix suffer from many technical flaws, sources report to The Information. The cars create an unsafe situation on the road, for example by suddenly braking hard.

According to The Information sources, the backup drivers still have to regularly take control of the wheel to avoid a possible collision or an unsafe situation. These drivers sit in the self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans to intervene if necessary. Several people in the field report that efforts by the likes of Waymo, Ford, and General Motors to create fully autonomous vehicles that can replace human drivers are not yet advanced. Incremental improvements are being made, but progress is ‘not far past the starting line’.

For example, a Phoenix road user said she was driving behind a Waymo self-driving car and that the Pacifica came to an abrupt stop at a t-junction while making a right turn. As a result, she got stuck in her left turn. It turns out that the Chrysler Pacifica minivans struggle to smoothly pass a t-junction and exhibit questionable handling there. The cars are programmed to follow the traffic rules very precisely, which in practice sometimes leads to frustration, because they stop at a stop sign for at least three seconds.

It also appears that the Waymo minivans have trouble turning left at a point without right-of-way rules. It also appears that the cars cannot merge without problems in heavy traffic, especially on highways. Sometimes the vehicles even appear to have difficulty with basic aspects of road traffic; for example, the cars reportedly struggle to understand the red and green traffic lights that regulate the flow to a highway.

A test fleet of Chrysler Pacifica minivans is operating in the US city of Phoenix, and the majority of the cars still have backup drivers on board who closely monitor the driving. According to The Information, restrictions have also been placed on the self-driving cars. For example, the vehicles were not allowed to take left turns to enter a road with a relatively high speed limit. A person involved in the testing said the cars will be “hyper-controlled.” Waymo would not have made public that the driverless tests have its limitations.

The tests will take place in the American city of Phoenix, where road traffic is relatively calm. Waymo has purchased thousands of minivans from Fiat Chrysler and these vehicles are to be officially deployed for Waymo’s taxi service later this year.

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