Self-driving cars are expected to help greatly reduce the number of vehicle collisions by eliminating human error but no technology is likely to be completely error-free. In a recent safety report from Waymo, Alphabet shared some insights as to how law enforcement should respond to an accident involving an autonomous vehicle.
Waymo has created three different response modes related to accidents. The first is a prevention method for safely navigating out of harm's way when vehicle sensors can no longer adequately provide data to continue regular driving. This could be caused by weather conditions, unusually hard to navigate terrains or component failure. Second, a response to detection of emergency services can be executed. The presence of sirens or flashing lights can trigger a vehicle to pull over and wait for further instructions.
The third scenario and most curious is, what happens to a self-driving vehicle that has been in a collision? Waymo has decided to use remote centers with humans to handle accidents. A report is sent from a vehicle involved in a crash to a remote location where a human can decide to contact insurance companies, police, EMS or dispatch other services to the scene.
Upon arrival of emergency services, moving the car out of the way of traffic is a priority. Chandler Police and Fire departments in Arizona have been working with Waymo to generate data for a library containing response options. Police and firemen are being trained on how to recognize self-driving vehicles and on a procedure for obtaining emergency access to such vehicles. The exact method of gaining entry has not been disclosed but a remote unlock option seems likely followed by forced entry if remote services have failed.