Waymo driverless car gets trapped in parking lot until human overrides it

Sundry Photography/Shutterstock @aniccia/X (Licensed)

Waymo autonomous taxi gets trapped in a parking lot—drives in circles until employee comes to the rescue

It looped around five times—and waited 8 minutes before assistance came.


Marlon Ettinger


Posted on Feb 29, 2024

When a driverless Waymo car drove into a Post Office parking lot in Venice, California, it quickly got stuck when the gate it tried to drive out of was locked. 

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Instead of trying another route out, or even driving back the way it came, the car drove in circles, looping five times until a human driver dispatched by Waymo took the wheel.

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“Stunning video of a Waymo robot self-trapping in a parking lot,” @aniccia posted on X, where they highlighted a video of the incident documented in a YouTube video by Kevin Chen, a software engineer whose channel documents his rides in Waymo and Cruise cars, which operate robotaxi services that have been cleared for testing and use in California.

“I gotta say, this parking lot trajectory leaves something to be desired,” Chen said as the car pulled in.

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“My focus will always be offering an unbiased look at AV performance and customer experience in the real world,” his channel description reads. “Not highlight reels or contrived scenarios.” 

Chen didn’t immediately respond to questions asking for more information about his project.

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A follow-up video posted last week shows the car looping five times after it got stopped by the locked gate. That drew the ire of a USPS supervisor who warned Chen that he had trucks coming into the lot soon and needed him out. 

“My carriers are about to roll in,” the supervisor warned Chen as he called remote support. “It’s very dangerous for you and for them. I don’t know what you got to do, buddy, but you really got to figure out how to get out of here.” 

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When remote attempts to get the car to simply leave the way it came in failed, Waymo dispatched the assistance team. Basically, an “autonomous specialist” (otherwise known as a driver) drove over, unlocked the car, and manually drove it out of the parking lot.

“Please note that the car won’t be in autonomous driving mode anymore … and it will be driven as a regular car,” the remote support operator told Chen before the driver arrived. They also let him know that he won’t be charged for the trip for his trouble and that he’ll get a $10 credit to his account for a future trip.

“Wow, so roadside assistance needs not just one person, but multiple people per assistance car. Waymo must be incinerating cash,” commented one viewer.

“This is amazing. I’m not the first to say this but it’s hysterical that they call the driver an “autonomous specialist,” added another. “He’s a driver. Autonomous mode has been canceled.”

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*First Published: Feb 29, 2024, 4:22 pm CST

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