July 21, 2024

Police officer in Phoenix stops malfunctioning Waymo self-driving car that caused disruption

Waymo, a subsidiary of Google, operates a fleet of autonomous vehicles in Phoenix that are authorized to operate without a human in the driver’s seat. These vehicles are used for ridesharing, and on occasion, requesting an Uber may result in a driverless Waymo car being sent to pick you up. While the technology is still learning and improving, there have been some occasional mishaps along the way.

One incident that garnered attention occurred on June 19 when a Waymo car was pulled over by a Phoenix police officer. The officer observed the vehicle driving through a construction zone and then proceeding to drive on the wrong side of the road, against traffic. When the officer initiated a traffic stop, the Waymo car “freaked out,” ran a red light, and pulled into a nearby parking lot.

Bodycam footage obtained by Arizona Central captured the interaction between the officer and the empty Waymo car. The car, equipped with autonomous technology, automatically connected to Rider Support with no human driver present. The officer explained the situation, and the support tech mentioned they would review the video footage.

When questioned about the incident, Waymo initially had no comment but later provided an explanation. The spokesperson stated that the car encountered confusion due to inconsistent construction signage, resulting in the vehicle entering the wrong lane and running the red light in an attempt to clear the intersection.

While there are processes in place to issue citations to autonomous vehicles, the Phoenix Police Department noted in their report that they were unable to issue a citation to a computer-operated vehicle. As technology continues to evolve, incidents like these may become more common, highlighting the need for clear regulations and protocols for autonomous driving.


Can police officers issue citations to driverless vehicles?

While there are processes in place, some police departments may face challenges in issuing citations to autonomous vehicles due to their unique nature.

How do autonomous vehicles handle traffic stops?

In the case of Waymo vehicles, they are equipped to automatically connect to support services when stopped by law enforcement, despite the absence of a human driver.


As self-driving technology continues to advance, incidents like the one involving the Waymo car in Phoenix serve as valuable learning experiences for both developers and regulatory authorities. Clear guidelines and communication channels are essential to ensure the safe integration of autonomous vehicles on public roads.

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