One of Google’s self-driving cars crashed into a bus and is at least partly to blame

One of Google’s self-driving cars just crashed into a public bus on a busy city street.

One of Google's self-driving cars crashed into a bus and is at least partly to blame

The vehicle was in autonomous mode when the collision happened in Mountain View, California. 

The accident came about on 14 February, with the details noted in a report filed by Google to the state’s department of motor vehicles. 

According to the accident report made public on Monday 29 February, one of Google’s Lexus SUVs changed lanes and put itself into the path of a municipal vehicle. It moved to make a right turn, but stopped when it detected a group of sand bags placed around a drain. When it veered out to pass them, things went wrong. 

Here’s a notable extract of what Google announced: 

After a few cars had passed, the Google AV began to proceed back into the centre of the lane to pass the sand bags. A public transit bus was approaching from behind. The Google AV test driver saw the bus approaching in the left side mirror but believed the bus would stop or slow to allow the Google AV to continue. Approximately three seconds later, as the Google AV was re-entering the centre of the lane it made contact with the side of the bus.

It’s not exactly a major crash, however. Google’s self-driving car was travelling at a mere 3mph, while the bus was going 15mph. Nobody was injured.

However, the fact that the vehicle struck another has rung alarm bells. Autonomous cars are a huge topic of discussion – many believe it to be the future and tests are being conducted across the world. But, naturally, there are concerns.

As Google admits: “In this case, we clearly bear some responsibility, because if our car hadn’t moved there wouldn’t have been a collision.”

Google had previously admitted that its car “could” have been at least partly responsible for the collision. Apparently the car’s test driver – who must take control when needed, according to state law – thought the bus would move to evade the accident. 

This appears to be the first time one of the company’s self-driving cars caused an accident. But there are still questions to be answered, and finer details will no doubt be sought. If these cars are on the road as planned by 2020, these issues will have to be ironed out. 

Google has been testing its Lexus motors, kitted out with cameras and sensors, for some time now. There have been other incidents, but none where Google has been determined as solely responsible. 

HT Wired

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