Google has reported the first collision where one of their autonomous vehicles may have been at fault. The accident, which occurred on February 14, was between one of the Lexus SUVs and a city bus. Google uses the Lexus SUVs to test their autonomous technology. Google is required to submit details of accidents involving their vehicles while on public roads. Damage was minimal, as the vehicles were both travelling at low speeds.
According to the report, Google’s SUV had detected debris on the roadway it was approaching an intended turn. Sandbags were strewn in the roadway, blocking partially the lane where the SUV was travelling. It detected the oncoming traffic, and the slow moving bus, and began to negotiate around the debris at 2mph. The bus, however, continued its rate and direction of travel. The SUV’s left front struck the oncoming bus. Google is required by law to have a human pilot ready to take control, for just such events. They stated the driver believed the bus was going to yield to the car, and did not take action.
It highlights many of the ongoing challenges with predictive driving that Google faces with their autonomous cars. They have completed analysis of the incident, and are modifying their computer logic to understand that buses may not be as willing to yield as other vehicles.
While Google has reported nearly a dozen accidents involving their autonomous SUVs, this is the first case where their car shared at least some of the blame. Some critics have pointed out this is why, despite all the technology, autonomous cars still need to allow a human driver to intercede.
No injuries were reported in the incident.