Four minutes after the vehicle paused, things got more interesting.
Johnson chatted with a remote fleet operator, who had dispatched a roadside assistance crew. But before the crew could arrive, the vehicle started moving again and turned the corner. It drove for five seconds before stopping again, this time partially blocking busy North Dobson.
A company spokesperson said the autonomous system itself requested guidance from the remote fleet operator, who can provide information on the surrounding area to help Waymo Driver navigate the problem spot. In this case, the guidance provided was erroneous, "which made it challenging for the Waymo Driver to resume its intended route."
Getting the roadside assistance team to the vehicle proved to be another stumbling block.
The initial dispatch was canceled after the car started moving. Ninety seconds into the second pause, with other motorists honking as they circumvented the minivan, the remote operator told Johnson, "I don't even have a roadside assistance assigned right now because the car is no longer stranded."
Three minutes later, suddenly, the roadside crew's estimated time of arrival was "right now," according to the remote operator. But there was no Waymo roadside service in sight. The only crew that appeared was a construction crew, picking up cones along the intended route. About two minutes and 15 seconds passed, and the car suddenly started moving again.
More so than the technical hurdles with the construction zone, the general confusion and lack of accurate communication between Waymo's remote operator and the company's roadside team were what surprised Johnson, who alternately appeared giddy and calm throughout a ride that grew more harrowing by the minute.
"They were somehow not communicating exactly, and the car just kept going when it wasn't supposed to," he said. "It just seemed like they lost control of the situation. That struck me as particularly odd because usually everything's very smooth."
Rajkumar cuts Waymo some leeway on the human communications breakdown, if only because the company likely does not have many real-world events in which humans gain valuable experience.
"They probably don't have much of a chance to assess those capabilities with different scenarios," he said. "Clearly, more needs to be done."