One of the most common questions first responders ask is to make sure the vehicle is stopped or parked after a crash. Passengers usually cannot control the vehicle by holding the steering wheel. This is a feature that provides security in the company’s day-to-day operations.
However, Waymo’s remote service team can activate such controls after a collision or when requested by law enforcement over a dedicated phone line.
Another common question concerns vehicle behavior during traffic stops.
In April, a GM-backed Cruise-operated AV drove off a police officer in San Francisco before a traffic stop was completed. This incident happens frequently in Bay Area training classes. A Waymo vehicle would have responded differently, says Patrick.
“If they had parked our car, the windows would have been closed and the passenger service guys would have said through the loudspeaker, ‘Hello cops, what should I do?'” he said.
The incident raises new questions about the interactions between AVs and police officers, while increasing tensions between AV companies operating in the city and civil servants.
Jeffrey Tamlin, director of transportation for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority, frequently hears about AV issues with 911 operators and on social media. Waymo is exceptional in proactive communication when problems arise, he said.
“Waymo contacted me,” Tumlin said. “We don’t always hear from other companies we work with.”
Communication can be two-way. In November, an AV was vandalized in the city. San Francisco police officers called the Waymo dispatch center to alert them. Turns out it’s not a Waymo car. For Patrick, it didn’t matter.
“They went through training and called the Waymo number,” he said. “For a guy who does the same thing that I do, it made me feel great.”