Even though Google’s automated vehicles have been involved in several minor road accidents, they were all caused by human drivers. But an accident earlier this month in California changed all that.
The incident in question was disclosed in documents filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles and revealed by tech site Re/code on Monday. The documents showed that a self-driving Lexus RX450h hit a city bus in Mountain View.
The DMV’s report says that the Lexus was trying to merge back into traffic and avoid sandbags which were on the road in front of a storm drain. The Google vehicle noticed the bus to the rear and assumed it would slow down or stop, but it instead continued.
The accident occurred at low speed. Google’s car was moving at 2 miles an hour, with the city bus travelling at 15 miles an hour. There were thankfully no injuries and the report only mentioned the damage to Google’s car.
Since news of the accident appeared on the Internet, Google has provided its own account, saying that similar incidents happen between human drivers on the road every day.
“This is a classic example of the negotiation that’s a normal part of driving — we’re all trying to predict each other’s movements”, Google said. “In this case, we clearly bear some responsibility, because if our car hadn’t moved there wouldn’t have been a collision. That said, our test driver believed the bust was going to slow or stop to allow us to merge into the traffic, and that there would be sufficient space to do that”.
Google’s self-driving cars were known to have been involved in 17 accidents on public roads, but in each case human drivers were apparently at fault, which makes the February 14th accident the first time Google Car’s must take some of the blame.
Google’s autonomous vehicle programme is out in the open, but Apple’s “Project Titan” is an industry secret said to be underway close to the company’s HQ.
Larry Banks is a keen follower of technology and finance. He has worked for a variety of online publications, writing about a diverse range of topics including mobile networks, patents, and Internet video delivery technologies.