Waymo Inspectors Fear For Safety Amid Coronavirus Crisis

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Safety drivers at Waymo fear for their own wellbeing amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. The Verge reports Google’s driverless vehicle arm is facing some internal criticism over its response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The center of the company’s testing operations, Arizona, largely relies on contractors from Transdev North America. Some of those now ostensibly feel treated as “second-class citizens” expected to pretend the world isn’t in the middle of a pandemic.

More specifically, TNA’s safety drivers were discouraged from canceling rides as the health crisis rages on. That’s in contrast to Waymo’s own employees, most of whom are now working from home.


Despite internal concerns, TNA reportedly made some adjustments to the operation it’s running with Waymo. It ramped up vehicle disenfection guidelines in accordance with CDC recommendations, as per the same report.

What’s more, TNA insiders claim the firm’s sending mixed signals regarding its official COVID-19 policy. One internal email from last week hence suggested the drivers shouldn’t think twice about canceling rides over health concerns.

Merely a day later, however, COO Katrina Heineking penned a memo indicating contrasting expectations. At least one TNA specialist interpreted the tone of the email as intimidating.


Meanwhile, Waymo’s reassuring potential customers it’s continuing operations with a complete focus on safety. Most of its safety drivers reportedly aren’t blaming Google’s subsidiary for TNA’s concerning approach to the Coronavirus crisis.

Waymo Coronavirus COVID 19 Rider Announcement
Waymo not keen to slow down autonomous vehicle testing despite a pandemic.

Waymo’s partner not breaking the mold

The situation doesn’t appear much different to how other ride-hailing companies are handling the ongoing pandemic. Neither Uber nor Lyft suspended operations on any scale, for example.

Waymo partnered with the subsidiary of France-based Transdev in the summer of 2019. The duo negotiated their collaboration without much fanfare, though the duration of the multiyear contract remains unknown.


Regardless, Transdev North America expects to continue providing safety drivers to Waymo for the foreseeable future. The experimental nature of self-driving tech and recent incidents in the segment demand as much. That’s doubly true for Tempe, Arizona; the scene of history’s first crash involving an autonomous vehicle and a human casualty.

With that said, TNA-employed safety drivers don’t see their roles at Waymo’s project as permanent. Neither does the Google spin-off, according to early 2020 reports.

The COVID-19 concerns are just the latest concerns among TNA specialists; insiders claim the group’s already displeased about working conditions and benefits at TNA.