The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has learned of multiple previously unknown autonomous taxi incidents in a recent safety probe, as the industry faces increased scrutiny.

    Reuters last week reported NHTSA had learned of nine additional incidents involving Waymo’s robotaxis vehicles in its latest investigation, which was opened earlier this month in response to numerous concerning reports involving the operator.

    The investigation was prompted by 22 reports of Waymo robotaxis exhibiting driving behaviour that “potentially violated traffic safety laws” or demonstrating “unexpected behaviour”, which included 17 collisions.

    In a letter to Waymo, NHTSA revealed it had learned of the additional nine similar incidents.

    NHTSA said several of the incidents in question “involved collisions with clearly visible objects that a competent driver would be expected to avoid”.

    “Reports include collisions with stationary and semi-stationary objects such as gates and chains, collisions with parked vehicles, and instances in which the [vehicle] appeared to disobey traffic safety control devices or rules,” NHTSA said.

    As part of the safety probe, Waymo has been asked to answer a series of questions about the incidents and provide video for all of them by June 11.

    The investigation is the first stage before NHTSA could demand a recall due its perceived safety risk, as some incidents were believed to have the potential to “increase the risk of crash, property damage, and injury”.

    It was also noted that a number of incidents occurred “in the proximity of other road users, including pedestrians”.

    This isn’t the first time Waymo has been in trouble this year, as in February it recalled 444 self-driving vehicles after two minor collisions in quick succession in Arizona.

    At the time, the company cited a software error that could cause the vehicles to inaccurately predict the movement of a towed vehicle.

    The investigation comes after other investigations into similar robotaxi companies in the United States, notably General Motors’ Cruise division, which was the subject of major criticism following a high-profile pedestrian collision late last year.

    Cruise has since fallen by the wayside after its parent company announced a US$1 billion (AU$1.5 billion) cut to its budget earlier this year.

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    Max Davies

    Max Davies is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Max studied journalism at La Trobe University and stepped into the automotive world after graduating in late 2023. He grew up in regional Victoria, and with a passion for everything motorsport is a fan of Fernando Alonso.

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