According to a whistleblower, Waymo drivers were refueling their vehicles without shutting off the engines. The company has changed its policy regarding the refueling of its vehicles as a result of the claims sent to fire officials.
Waymo operates a fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacific hybrid minivans.
Whistleblower Reports Dangerous Refueling Practices to Chandler Fire Officials
The whistleblower remains anonymous, but according to reports, notified the Chandler Fire Department via email about his concerns. He claimed that Waymo drivers had been instructed to refuel vehicles while the engines continued to run. Chandler Fire officials initially instructed the whistleblower to bring his or her concerns to Waymo’s safety department.
After the fire department’s initial response, the whistleblower stated that the City of Chandler should take responsibility for enforcing fire codes. The fire department then requested more information, including when and where violations were taking place. In response, the whistleblower instructed the fire department that “all Waymo vehicles” were refueled without shutting off the engine and that the majority of refueling took place at a site located at 56th Street and Chandler Blvd.
The Republic managed to learn about the report and contacted the company and the fire department. Shortly after Waymo announced it was changing its policy. When questioned about the report, Waymo officials did not dispute the claims made in the whistleblower’s email but did refuse to respond to specific questions about the previous policies concerning refueling of its vehicles.
According to the statement issued announcing the policy change, the company claims to pride itself on its “strong safety culture” and said that everyone in the company works hard to hold themselves accountable to the community and the Waymo team.
There is no consensus on whether or not it is dangerous to refuel vehicles while engines continue to run. Many people have reported leaving their vehicles running while they refuel and give a variety of reasons for doing so, including allowing the car’s heater or air conditioner to continue running.
Despite a lack of agreement concerning the dangers related to refueling practices, the owner’s manuals for Chrysler Waymo vans does state to shut the engine off when refueling. There are typically notifications on gas pumps, as well, alerting drivers to shut off their engines and remain outside of their vehicles when refueling – regardless of the type of vehicle they might be driving.
Fire Codes Call for Engine Vehicles to Be Shut Off during Refueling
According to the City of Chandler’s 2015 edition of International Fire Codes, engine vehicles being refueled should be shot off during refueling.
Following the investigation by The Republic, the whistleblower received a second response from the Chandler Fire Department stating that the fire marshal had spoken to Waymo management and that the company had assured him that the policy on refueling would be changed immediately.
The letter went on to thank the whistleblower for making Chandler a safer place to live and work.
In addition to the letter sent to the whistleblower, The Republic also received a letter stating from Battalion Chief Jeff West that stated: “We could not be happier to have this type of relationship with a company that wants to develop a new technology and new service in the city of Chandler.”