USA TODAY US Edition
Whoops! Google car hits bus — first time it’s at fault
Its miscalculation mirrors human error
SAN FRANCISCO After more than a million miles of autonomous driving over the past six years, Google’s self-driving car had never been at fault in the 17 accidents the company reported to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Until now.
According to a report to the DMV, on Feb. 14 a self-driving Lexus SUV owned by parent company Alphabet was testing on the streets of Mountain View, Calif., when it struck a bus while traveling at 2 mph. The incident was the result of road conditions that were compromised by sandbags in a lane, which caused the Lexus to move into the left lane. The municipal bus was approaching in that lane at 15 mph.
The Google car anticipated that the bus would slow down, while the bus driver believed the Google car would retreat from its effort to merge. There were no injuries, and the accident resulted in damage to the Google car’s left front fender and some sensors.
In all of its previous accidents, the majority were the result of human drivers rear-ending the Google cars at slow speeds, typi- cally at intersections where they anticipated the Google car would move ahead.
On Tuesday, Google is to release its monthly report on its au- tonomous car program. But in a statement Monday, Google acknowledged that its computerdriven vehicle made the wrong decision. It also stressed that the incident reflects the sort of guesswork that goes on between human drivers.
“This is a classic example of the negotiation that’s a normal part of driving — we’re all trying to predict each other’s movements,” the statement read.
Google’s tests are always conducted with legally mandated safety drivers. Sometimes they take over control of the test vehicles but did not in this accident.