In Google’s quest to put cars in charge of their own driving, a few of its autonomous test vehicles have been involved in some fender benders, but all of these accidents have been blamed on other drivers. That changed on Feb. 14, when a Lexus R450h equipped with one of Google’s autonomous-driving systems crashed into a bus right in Google’s home turf of Mountain View, CA.
Thankfully, no injuries were reported. But it seems the collision occurred when Google’s self-driving car, and its human monitor behind the wheel, mistakenly assumed that an oncoming public transit bus would let Google’s AV merge into the center lane in order to avoid some sand bags blocking the right lane.
Anyone who has spent a decent amount time on the road probably knows that city buses can be pretty erratic and often quite bullish, but that’s still not a good excuse for colliding with another vehicle. To Google’s credit, in its latest monthly report, the company said “In this case, we clearly bear some responsibility, because if our car hadn't moved there wouldn't have been a collision.” However, the statement continued with “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.”
It seems Google will use this incident as a learning experience and concluded its report by saying that after having reviewed that data, it plans to adjust its self-driving software to better recognize that buses and other larger vehicles are less likely to yield to traditional passenger cars. Hopefully, its cars will be able to handle situations like the one above in the future without issue.
Really, it was only a matter of time before one of Google’s self-driving cars became the cause of an accident, but it’s hard to imagine that this one incident will call into question the entire autonomous car movement.