2mph fender-bender was the car’s fault, Google says, but it will learn from its mistakes
Google has admitted one of its self-driving cars has been in a crash caused by its own mistakes.
The incident, which saw the car collide into a bus whilst changing lanes, happened near Google’s Mountain View headquarters in California, where the company has been trialling the vehicles over recent months.
Although Google’s cars have been involved in several minor incidents during testing, this is the first time that the vehicle itself has been at fault, highlighting that there may still be some way to go before the technology is perfected.
The crash, which happened on February 14, occurred when the car, travelling at 2mph (3km/h), pulled out in front of a public bus going 15mph (24km/h), crashing into the side of it and causing minor damage.
The human driver in the Google vehicle, required by law to be inside in case of any malfunction, said that he assumed the bus would slow down to let the car out, and so he did not grab the wheel or look to override the car’s self-driving computer.
The driver reported that the presence of sandbags marking a lane closure on the road may have confused the Google car, as it was caught out by an unexpected obstacle.
“We clearly bear some responsibility, because if our car hadn’t moved, there wouldn’t have been a collision,” Google said in a statement. “That said, our test driver believed the bus was going to slow or stop to allow us to merge into the traffic, and that there would be sufficient space to do that.”
The company, which says it has now refined its self-driving algorithm, will also meet with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to discuss the incident, and attempt to determine where the blame lies.
“From now on, 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,” Google said.
The company revealed back in January that its vehicles, which have completed nearly 425,000 miles of testing on the roads around its California headquarters, have been involved in 13 ‘near-miss’ incidents, and although they were never at fault in any recorded crashes, engineers riding in the cars had to assume manual control several times.
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