Self-driving cars promise to usher in a utopia where human error is eliminated and we are all ferried around in robot automobiles, safer than ever. Well now one of them has crashed into a bus.
The incident occurred on Valentine's Day in Mountain View, California, near to Google's HQ. The car in question was a Lexus RX450h kitted out with Google's software and sensors. The collision was at low speed, and no one was injured. But the car suffered damage to its front fender (i.e. bumper), wheel, and sensors.
This is the first incident in which the autonomous car was at least partly to blame. Google's self-driving cars have been in accidents before, but it's always been the other driver's fault. So what happened in this case?
Google's car tried to change lanes to avoid sandbags in the road, and the software thought the bus in the other lane would slow down to let it in. It was wrong.
According to Google, this kind of accident happens all the time with human drivers.
"Our test driver, who had been watching the bus in the mirror, also expected the bus to slow or stop," it said in a statement (via Engadget). "And we can imagine the bus driver assumed we were going to stay put. Unfortunately, all these assumptions led us to the same spot in the lane at the same time.
"This type of misunderstanding happens between human drivers on the road every day."
The firm added that it had taught the software to react better to this situation, and not make the same assumptions.
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