With the advent of self-driving cars, emergency services will need to rethink how to approach wrecks and other crashes. To help them out, Waymo has published a guide for first responders in case of an emergency involving one of its self-driving cars.
Crashes involving self-driving cars have been few and far between, but the guide lists all the necessary steps for first responders in case they come across one of Waymo's self-driving cars must deactivate it. The self-driving technology also has some pretty intelligent information baked in to respond to law enforcement and emergency services.
For example, Waymo's self-driving technology can recognize flashing lights from a police car or other emergency vehicle. In the case an emergency vehicle comes up behind a self-driving car with lights flashing, the self-driving car is capable of pulling over and stopping when it determines a safe place.
From there, the self-driving car can roll down the windows and unlock the doors so law enforcement or other services can communicate with any occupants as well as Waymo’s support team. The Waymo support team communicates over the in-vehicle speakers and infotainment screen. A team can also be dispatched to the scene for support for riders and law enforcement.
But, when the car needs to be entirely shut down, the guide also lists the proper steps. The simplest way is to open a door; the car will not drive itself if a door is open. Waymo also advises law enforcement or emergency services to break a window to unlock a door to shut the car down. Local police, firefighters, and others can also press the "live help" button on the ceiling and connect with a Waymo team to shut down the car and hand over control to a human driver.
The guide says it was last updated in September, and it could be a precursor to Waymo's first commercial self-driving service due to start later this year in Phoenix, Arizona. The service will likely operate in a geofenced area, but informing public servants of how to handle the cars seems like a good first step before deploying the cars to service the public. Ford has also recently published a document on how it is ensuring safety in the area of self-driving cars.