Google admits ‘some responsibility’ for autonomous car crash
Google has admitted “some responsibility” for an accident involving one of its self-driving Lexus RX450h crossovers.
The autonomous vehicle was approaching an intersection in Mountain View, California, when it encountered sand bags around a storm drain. The crossover allowed a few vehicles to pass before it moved 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 … but believed the bus would stop or slow to allow the Google AV to continue,” the accident report notes. “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 accident appears to be among the first examples of a collision involving an autonomous vehicle computer misjudgment. Most if not all other accidents have been caused by human drivers. Google’s prototype drivers are trained to intervene and avoid such accidents, however the bus crash demonstrates the consequences when a human makes the same misjudgment as the software algorithms.
“We clearly bear some responsibility, because if our car hadn’t moved, there wouldn’t have been a collision,” the company said in a statement to Reuters. “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.”
Engineers reviewed the scenario and thousands of similar variations to refine its software and minimize the risk of such accidents occurring again in the future.
“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,” the statement added.
The company has pushed state and federal regulators to permit autonomous vehicles without a steering wheel, accelerator/brake pedals and other manual controls for human drivers. Government officials have generally called for a more cautious approach that requires the human ‘driver’ to remain attentive at all times and ready to take the wheel.
Google and other companies are hoping data from millions of prototype miles will help validate their claims that autonomous cars are much safer than human drivers.