Google’s self-driving cars have had a spotless driving record so far. After over a million miles of driving in some tough cities (let’s be fair, California drivers aren’t exactly great), there hasn’t been a single crash where the car was at fault. The few times a self driving car has been damaged is either someone running into it or a human was driving it.
Well, that was true until now. A Google self-driving car has gotten into its first crash in which it was at fault. The details are below:
“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. 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. 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.”
It’s kind of a mixed bag. On one hand, it would have been nice if the bus had yielded to a car trying to get around an obstacle. But legally, the bus had the right of way, and the self-driving car should have yielded to a bus coming. Human intuition is one thing, and expecting the bus to yield is reasonable, but the self-driving car should have been more careful.
Thankfully, one crash in the history of the many Google self-driving cars out there still means the cars are far safer than human drivers. This bug can be fixed, and hope in these cars should not be lost.