Car Tech Google's self-driving car at fault in minor accident involving public transit bus

Shawn Knight

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

Google's self-driving vehicles have logged millions of hours on public roadways. Inevitably, they've also been involved in a handful of traffic accidents. Up to this point, however, Google says its autonomous vehicles have never been at fault in any of them.

That claim no longer appears to be case.

The Verge points to a report from the California DMV first spotted by Mark Harris that describes a recent incident involving one of Google's self-driving vehicles and a city bus. In it, Google describes an out-of-the-ordinary scenario in which one of its Lexus-model autonomous vehicles was attempting to merge back into traffic at a slow speed when it made contact with the side of a public transit bus.

Google said its autonomous vehicle, which was in self-driving mode at the time, was traveling around 2 mph and the bus was going about 15 mph at the time of impact. The vehicle's safety driver saw the bus approaching from the rear but believed it would stop or slow to let the Google car continue.

What makes the scenario unique is the fact that the right-hand lane on this particular street is wide enough to allow two lines of traffic. It's not uncommon for a vehicle attempting to turn off the road to hold up traffic and when that happens, drivers make full use of the wide lane and go around them.

In a report on the matter, Google says its vehicle did just that but encountered some sandbags blocking its path near a storm drain. As such, it needed to merge back into "traffic" to go around it which is when the accident happened.

Fortunately, there were no injuries reported at the scene.

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R

Raoul Duke

I mentioned this before, but who is to take the punishment? The AI, the owner, Google etc.? It was inevitable that the car would eventually make a mistake.
 
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tonylukac

TS Evangelist
Google's entire credit card (or even more credit card systems) were down saturday for the android google play store. Four people tried to buy one of my apps and their credit cards were declined. There have been at least 2 nationwide credit card processing outages in the last few months when trying to pay for me at dental school. They were hardly reported, but in my looking into it they are using verizon fios to access the internet on the east coast instead of a t1 or t2 line or whatever they use now, and verizon had outages in its fios on those days. This is like att's uverse system for internet, which are simply advanced dsl having some fiber, but some still with 2 wire pair like ours to the site/home. Certain things are inexpensive, but not the way to run credit card systems. With bank of america charging 21% interest on its credit card (actually illegal as it's called loan sharking if it's above 16%), you would think they would be able to afford more than dsl to power major banking systems.
 
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Squid Surprise

TS Evangelist
Google's entire credit card (or even more credit card systems) were down saturday for the android google play store. Four people tried to buy one of my apps and their credit cards were declined. There have been at least 2 nationwide credit card processing outages in the last few months when trying to pay for me at dental school. They were hardly reported, but in my looking into it they are using verizon fios to access the internet on the east coast instead of a t1 or t2 line or whatever they use now, and verizon had outages in its fios on those days. This is like att's uverse system for internet, which are simply advanced dsl having some fiber, but some still with 2 wire pair like ours to the site/home. Certain things are inexpensive, but not the way to run credit card systems. With bank of america charging 21% interest on its credit card (actually illegal as it's called loan sharking if it's above 16%), you would think they would be able to afford more than dsl to power major banking systems.
Um... how does this belong in this thread?

At least the error was at 2mph... I'd rather see tinpot collisions than someone being run over...
 

cliffordcooley

TS Redneck
The person in the car at the time had the option of taking control, so it would be their fault that they did not.
In a true autonomous stage, no one will think about watching and second guessing the cars ability. These are testing conditions not mainstream. We all know that under testing conditions it will also be the copilots fault. Testing conditions is not the only reason for asking that question. At some point testing will be completed, and at that time who will then be to blame?
 

Technician

TS Addict
In a true autonomous stage, no one will think about watching and second guessing the cars ability. These are testing conditions not mainstream. We all know that under testing conditions it will also be the copilots fault. Testing conditions is not the only reason for asking that question. At some point testing will be completed, and at that time who will then be to blame?
Why would it change? Under the law a deliberate inaction to prevent an otherwise preventable crime is a crime if said action does not place you in direct harm. Preventing an accident would most likely prevent harm.

This little fender bender would not have occurred if the bus allowed the car to enter the lane as would have happened if the bus was also autonomous.
 

cliffordcooley

TS Redneck
Why would it change? Under the law a deliberate inaction to prevent an otherwise preventable crime is a crime if said action does not place you in direct harm. Preventing an accident would most likely prevent harm.
You are failing to see one of the biggest advantages to autonomous vehicles. People who don't have authority to drive can be driven autonomously. And under this condition can not be charged because they are not even authorized to do so manually. And under this condition it would not be fair to charge anyone just because they are licensed and could control the car manually. I will never give control to a car if I am to be held responsible for any faults it may do automatically. I will however release the reigns, if I am no longer held responsible for the actions of someone Else's programming. What you are saying is borderline to charging all the passenger on a bus, because they could have thrown the driver out the door to prevent an accident.
 

wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
Bus drivers of all type, from my experience anyway, often commit overtly aggressive acts - intentionally or not. In this case, the bus was approaching from the rear. From the info given in the article, it sounds like gagme's car had the right-of-way. If authorities concur, the bus driver will have a ticket to deal with.
 

Technician

TS Addict
You are failing to see one of the biggest advantages to autonomous vehicles. People who don't have authority to drive can be driven autonomously. And under this condition can not be charged because they are not even authorized to do so manually. And under this condition it would not be fair to charge anyone just because they are licensed and could control the car manually. I will never give control to a car if I am to be held responsible for any faults it may do automatically. I will however release the reigns, if I am no longer held responsible for the actions of someone Else's programming. What you are saying is borderline to charging all the passenger on a bus, because they could have thrown the driver out the door to prevent an accident.
You are assuming that. What I am saying is the buses need to be self driving as well.
 

anguis

TS Enthusiast
Bus drivers of all type, from my experience anyway, often commit overtly aggressive acts - intentionally or not. In this case, the bus was approaching from the rear. From the info given in the article, it sounds like gagme's car had the right-of-way. If authorities concur, the bus driver will have a ticket to deal with.
It sounds like it was one lane, but a wide lane, in which the Google car was on the right and the bus was on the left (same lane mind you) and when an obstruction prevented the Google car to continue on the right side of the lane, it cautiously moved over. The bus didn't let the Google car (which, being ahead of the bus in the same lane, had the right of way) go ahead and the two collided. Doesn't sound like this is the Google car's fault at all. The bus driver made a mistake.
 

cliffordcooley

TS Redneck
You are assuming that. What I am saying is the buses need to be self driving as well.
That assertion can mean only one thing, Google's self driving car was once more not at fault.

On a side note, I wonder if Google cars are programmed to give larger vehicles more respect? It is certainly more difficult for them to stop. Or does the Google Car's see everything as equals?
 

Technician

TS Addict
That assertion can mean only one thing, Google's self driving car was once more not at fault.

On a side note, I wonder if Google cars are programmed to give larger vehicles more respect? It is certainly more difficult for them to stop. Or does the Google Car's see everything as equals?
All it says is that either vehicle could have prevented it. The bus did not have to slow to allow the car to merge, but it could have and doing so would have prevented the collision.
 

Squid Surprise

TS Evangelist
The article has already stated that the authorities have placed the blame on the Google Car... officially... as I'm sure most of us know, just because an accident is "officially" one person's fault, the REAL fault often lies with another party...

I know that in Canada, if you rear end someone in the same lane as you, it's automatically your fault... you were following too closely if you didn't stop in time... But in reality, if you're on the highway and some ***** jams on his brakes for no reason and you hit him... it might be your fault officially - but we all know it's that bloody fool in front of you who was REALLY at fault...

Looks like this is a similar case... officially, the Google Car is at fault - it tried to merge into a lane that a bus had right of way in... but the bus should have seen the car and slowed down - just because it didn't HAVE to doesn't mean it shouldn't have...

Same thing for when a jaywalker crosses in front of you - technically, it's the pedestrian's fault when you hit him (or her)... but maybe you should have tried to stop?
 

DeerSpotter

TS Rookie
Honestly, I would love to get hit by a Google's Self Driving Car. Imagine, I can finally sell this piece of **** and buy a new one with the insurance money, and a settlement not to sue.
 
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cliffordcooley

TS Redneck
Honestly, I would love to get hit by a Google's Self Driving Car. Imagine, I can finally sell this piece of **** and buy a new one with the insurance money, and a settlement not to sue.
You should be a politician, that is if you are not, it seems to be in your blood.
 

Squid Surprise

TS Evangelist
Honestly, I would love to get hit by a Google's Self Driving Car. Imagine, I can finally sell this piece of **** and buy a new one with the insurance money, and a settlement not to sue.
Yeah... but it would be your lawyers vs Google's lawyers... I don't like your chances...
 

captaincranky

TechSpot Addict
You should be a politician, that is if you are not, it seems to be in your blood.
I don't know where you get "politician". Our member sounds born and bred to be an ambulance chasing shyster. Who knows, maybe we'll see his photo on the side of that very same bus...,

."Injured in an accident? Get everything you're entitled to! Call DeerSpotter Esq Attorney at law"
 

Curtisronin

TS Rookie
I dont think its the problem that accident actually occurred, the problem is that we know it was self driving car, although I must admit its impressive it still feels creepy, and I can imagine the bus drivers face. I read some place AI decided in a crash test, to save dozen people and sacrifice the driver. Its still creepy.