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Waymo Publishes Guidelines for Handling Driverless Vehicles during Emergencies

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【Summary】In the event an emergency responder needs to disable self-driving mode, the individual must request help from a Waymo representative by either calling the hotline number or activating rider support.

Michael Cheng    Oct 25, 2018 6:00 AM PT
Waymo Publishes Guidelines for Handling Driverless Vehicles during Emergencies

Autonomous cars are a new breed of vehicles, equipped with numerous cutting-edge and complex features. Because of this, the way the units are handled by law enforcement groups and first responders during emergencies must be carefully addressed.

Waymo, as a pioneer in the self-driving industry, is the first automotive company to issue an emergency response guide for police and emergency responders. Published earlier this month, the establishment's report is comprehensive and includes a toll-free, 24/7 hotline number (1-877-503-0840) for direct communication with Waymo professionals.

Identification and Self-driving Mode

In the published document, Waymo provides several ways to identify autonomous vans that make up the company's fleet. A numerical identifier can be found on the windshield and the rear window of the unit for quick referencing. Inside the vehicles, first responders may refer to a set of documents located at both the driver-side and passenger-side sun visors, which contain vehicle owner data, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.

It is highlighted in the report that the company's vans are "fully self-driving at all times" without an individual in the driver's seat or controlling the unit. In the latter parts of the document, the company elaborated on specific instances, wherein the vehicles can operate in driverless mode. A geo-fenced territory is in place to contain the units in areas where the vans can confidently drive (autonomously) without human intervention.

In the event an emergency responder needs to disable self-driving mode, the individual must request help from a Waymo representative by either calling the hotline number or activating rider support.

"If air bags have deployed, the vehicle cannot be driven again until repaired, as air bag protection will not be available to occupants in the event of a collision. After any collision, the vehicle should be taken to an authorized dealer immediately," explained Waymo.

Autonomous Vehicle Specs

Interestingly, the report contains specifications for the driverless vans, detailing their self-driving classification and capabilities. To start, a standard Waymo autonomous van is a plug-in hybrid unit, with markings at the charge port door, rear and engine cover. The vehicles are equipped with SAE L4 self-driving features, in compliance with Standard J3016.

During use, the vans are capable of driving on public roads with speed limits up to 65 mph. Moreover, the units can operate effectively during the day and night, as well as in light rain and fog. These impressive capabilities indicate that Waymo is making significant advancements in preparing the fleet for a wide range of outdoor conditions and environments. The report advises the current limitations of the company's fleet, which includes heavy rain, snow and icy roads, floods, mountainous roads and off-road pathways.

"Since our technology is new, part of that commitment means working closely with public safety officials and first responders so they understand how our vehicles work and can be prepared for any situation on the road including emergencies, collisions and other scenarios where there is no Waymo employee in the driverless car," said Alexis Georgeson, a Waymo spokeswoman, in a statement.

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