Google Driverless Car Hits Bus

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Last week a Google driverless car pulled right into a bus. It is the first time, at least on record, that a Google autonomous car has caused an accident, but not the first time that a Google driverless car has been in an accident. (Last year, Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving car program, published a 2-part piece on why you should believe that Google’s autonomous vehicles (“AV”) are safer than cars driven by people which, he says, crash into the Google AVs quite regularly.)

Explained Google, in an incident report filed with the California DMV regarding last week’s incident, “A Google Lexus-model autonomous vehicle (“Google AV”) was traveling in autonomous mode eastbound on El Camino Real in Mountain View in the far right-hand lane approaching the Castro St. intersection. As the Google AV approached the intersection, it signaled its intent to make a right turn on red onto Castro St. The Google AV then moved to the right-hand side of the lane to pass traffic in the same lane that was stopped at the intersection and proceeding straight.”

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.

The report goes on to say “However, the Google AV had to come to a stop and go around sandbags positioned around a storm drain that were blocking its path. When the light turned green, traffic in the lane continued past the Google AV. After a few cars had passed, the Google AV began to proceed back into the center 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.”


 
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Google Driverless Car Hits Bus

{Ed. note: Well, there was its first mistake.}

“Approximately three seconds later, as the Google AV was reentering the center of the lane it made contact with the side of the bus. The Google AV was operating in autonomous mode and traveling at less than 2 mph, and the bus was travelling at about 15 mph at the time of contact. The Google AV sustained body damage to the left front fender, the left front wheel and one of its driver’s-side sensors. There were no injuries reported at the scene,” concluded Google’s report.

Our cars will more deeply understand that buses and other large vehicles are less likely to yield to us than other types of vehicles, and we hope to handle situations like this more gracefully in the future.

In a [Page no longer available – we have linked to the archive.org version instead] about the incident, Google added that “Our cars will more deeply understand that buses and other large vehicles are less likely to yield to us than other types of vehicles, and we hope to handle situations like this more gracefully in the future.”


 

The bottom line is that the Google car expects courtesy from the drivers around it, including expecting the bus driver to be courteous, and let the Google car go first.

As Sam Abuelsamid over at Forbes points out, “Unfortunately, the Google car has no way of detecting the bus driver’s intent from outside. Although there is no guarantee, a human driver might have looked over the shoulder and made eye contact with the bus driver which have might have made the decision different.”

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Google Driverless Car Hits Bus

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1 Reply to “Google Driverless Car Hits Bus”

  1. Who ever programed “humans are nice, they will let you into the lane”, needs to be fired. If these cars are going to make it, they need to be told that everything on the road is trying to kill them. Drive accordingly

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