A Google Autonomous Vehicle Traded Some Paint with a Bus, Seems to Be at Fault

Google Lexus RX450h AV 1 photo
Photo: Ed and Eddle on Flickr
Google's fleets of Lexus RX450h SUVs and funny toy cars are roaming through more and more locations in the country, making sure we all get to enjoy traveling in our private cars without the hassle of actually driving the vehicle as soon as possible.
With millions of miles under their belts between them, it would have been impossible not to be part of any sort of traffic incident, but Google always highlighted the fact that in all instances, it was the fault of the other vehicle that was definitely operated by a human being.

Well, it would appear that this immaculate record of its self-driving cars is about to be lost once and for all, as one of the autonomous Lexus RX450h SUVs might have just caused a minor accident in Mountain View, California. But before you pop open that champagne bottle (nobody likes a smart-ass, Google), let's hear what actually happened.

A DMV report first discovered by Mark Harris tells an interesting story. According to the official paper, Google's autonomous SUV was traveling on El Camino Real in the right-hand lane as it approached an intersection. It signaled its intention to go right at a red light, then proceeded to move closer to the right extremity of the lane, to pass the cars that were in the same lane but wanted to cross the intersection straight.

As it turns out, the Google car was out of luck as some sandbags positioned around a storm drain blocked its path, so it had to sit and wait for the light to turn green. Once that happened, a few cars passed the Lexus, but then the autonomous SUV decided to try and move back to the center of the lane. A public bus that came from behind failed to acknowledge the self-driving car's intentions and didn't stop to allow the Lexus to go around the obstacle. The two vehicles made contact, resulting in minor damages to the car and probably nothing more than a dent on the bus.

The vehicle was operating in autonomous mode at all times and the Google AV (autonomous vehicle) test driver said he saw the bus coming, but assumed it would stop and allow the RX450h to perform the maneuver safely.

This small mishap actually manages to make the Google AI controlling the car seem more human, but that's not what is expected of it. Google undoubtedly wants it to be 100 percent foolproof, and as we've said before, that perfect record has now been tainted. Of course, there's still plenty of time for Google to address any flaws in its system and the AI has probably learned something from this, but even though it messed up, I hope Google won't punish it too hard. After all, I prefer this outcome over having the car sit there forever, until no other vehicle could be spotted on a three-mile radius. And let's not exclude the possibility where the bus driver was behaving like an a-hole on purpose, just because he had recognized the car.

We'll hear more about the incident from Google in a few days' time when the monthly self-driving report comes out. I tell you, there is not one boring day in this automotive world.
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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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