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Waymo's self-driving vehicles are facing mounting scrutiny following the release of reports detailing multiple incidents that raise serious safety concerns. These investigations, led by federal safety regulators, are part of a wider effort to ensure the safety of automated driving technology, and their findings may have a profound impact on the future of autonomous vehicles.

These latest reports, revealing nine additional incidents involving Waymo's self-driving vehicles in Phoenix and San Francisco, come on the heels of the ongoing investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) that has already called into question Waymo’s autonomous vehicle software. This investigation was spurred by 22 prior reports of Waymo vehicles causing accidents and potentially breaking traffic laws.

The newest incidents shed further light on the risks posed by autonomous vehicles, with reports revealing Waymo vehicles colliding with gates, utility poles, and parked vehicles. More worryingly, there were instances of self-driving cars traveling in the wrong lane and venturing into construction zones.

Such unpredictable driving behavior increases the threat of accidents, property damage and, more importantly, the risk of injury to pedestrians - an issue made all the more critical as some of these incidents happened in close proximity to pedestrian traffic.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given Waymo a deadline of June 11 to respond to questions regarding the ongoing investigation. This rapidly looming date marks a significant point in the saga of Waymo's self-driving vehicle safety evaluation and is sure to have industry analysts and autonomous vehicle proponents watching closely.

But Waymo isn't the only company in the NHTSA's sights. As part of an industry-wide expansion of inquiries into automated driving technology, the agency has also begun investigating autonomous vehicles operated by Amazon-backed Zoox.

The implications of these inquiries for the future of autonomous vehicles are huge. As self-driving car technology continues to evolve, the need for stringent safety regulations and vigilant enforcement becomes paramount. If companies like Waymo and Zoox fail to meet these safety standards, it could spark a significant setback in public confidence in autonomous driving technology, possibly slowing down widespread adoption and forcing a reevaluation of how the sector moves forward.

Despite these challenges, the race towards a future dominated by autonomous vehicles shows no sign of slowing down. As investigations continue and companies respond to safety concerns, an industry under public scrutiny now finds itself in a crucial moment of self-assessment, forcing technological innovators to also become guardians of public safety. How they respond may just steer the course of the autonomous vehicle revolution.