Self-driving car companies Waymo and Zoox are under federal investigation for violating traffic laws and being involved in collisions, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced. 

The NHTSA, which falls under the U.S. Department of Transportation, says its Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) “has received reports of 22 incidents involving Waymo vehicles equipped with Waymo’s 5th generation automated driving system (ADS).”

The reports include 17 crashes with things like gates, chains and parked cars, as well as “instances in which the ADS appeared to disobey traffic safety control devices.” In some instances, vehicles were reported to have been “driving in opposing lanes with nearby oncoming traffic or entering construction zones,” according to ODI.

“The investigation will evaluate the ADS’s performance in detecting and responding to traffic control devices and in avoiding collisions with stationary and semi-stationary objects and vehicles,” an ODI document said regarding its probe.

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Earlier this month, video of a Waymo driving the wrong way down a busy roadway in Tempe, Arizona, went viral. It showed one of the Alphabet Inc.-owned company’s vehicles turning out of a parking lot into oncoming traffic on Rural Road near U.S. 60, continuing past the person filming.

The Tempe Police Department told FOX Business it was aware of the video, and encouraged drivers to “remain vigilant and report any driving (whether it is an autonomous vehicle or human driven) to our dispatch.” Police also said Waymo has protocols in place for when officers need to conduct a traffic stop on its vehicles. 

“Autonomous vehicles are subject to any and all city and state traffic laws,” Tempe PD said in an email. 

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A Waymo car

Waymo in March began offering autonomous services for its employees in Austin, Texas, making it the fourth major autonomous ride-hailing city after San Francisco, Phoenix and Los Angeles.

The NHTSA also received notice of two collisions involving Amazon-owned Zoox autonomous ride-hailing vehicles. In both instances, Toyota Highlanders equipped with the Zoox ADS “unexpectedly braked suddenly,” causing motorcyclists following behind to collide into the Zoox vehicles, the NHTSA said. Both crashes resulted in minor injuries, and a probe has now been launched into 500 Zoox vehicles.

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Zoox vehicle

A Zoox spokesperson told Reuters the company was reviewing the request for information but did not offer additional details on the incidents. 

“Transparency and collaboration with regulators is of the utmost importance, and we remain committed to working closely with NHTSA to answer their questions,” a statement said. 

  

Zoox said in March the company was expanding testing of its cars in California and Nevada, so that it could focus on a wider area, higher speeds and nighttime driving. Amazon acquired Zoox in 2020 for $1.3 billion.

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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