Watch Google’s Self-Driving Car Hit a Bus

Surveillance video has been released that shows the Valentine's Day accident between a Google self-driving car and California public transit bus.

Newly released video obtained by the Associated Press shows the accident that occurred between a Google self-driving car and a public transit bus on Valentine’s Day 2016 in Mountain View, California.

The video is from the surveillance camera on the public transit bus. Google claimed some responsibility for the accident, making this incident the first accident caused by a Google self-driving car in autonomous mode.

Here’s how the accident happened, according to a report filed with the California DMV:

“A Google Lexus-model autonomous vehicle (“Google AV”) was traveling in autonomous mode eastbound on El Camino Real in Mountain View in the far right-hand lane approaching the Castro St. intersection. As the Google AV approached the intersection, it signaled its intent to make a right turn on red onto Castro St. The Google AV then moved to the right-hand side of the lane to pass traffic in the same lane that was stopped at the intersection and proceeding straight.

“However, the Google AV had to come to a stop and go around sandbags positioned around a storm drain that were blocking its path. When the light turned green, traffic in the lane continued past the Google AV. After a few cars had passed, the Google AV began to proceed back into the center of the lane and pass the sandbags. A public transit bus was approaching from behind.

“The Google AV test driver saw the bus approaching the left side mirror but believed the bus would stop or slow to allow the Google AV to continue. 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 Google AV was operating in autonomous mode and traveling less than 2 mph, and the bus was traveling at about 15 mph at the time of contact.”

Nobody was injured at the scene. This YouTube video posted by Joshua Smith shows a Google self-driving car pulled over on the side of the road with damage to its front left fender. This seems to be in line with the accident report (PDF) filed with the California DMV, which said the Google self-driving car “sustained body damage to the left front fender, the left front wheel and one of its driver’s-side sensors.”

“We were behind it a few cars and traffic was moving really slow. Didn’t know it had been hit until he pulled over past the intersection,” Smith writes on YouTube. “We got caught at the light and it was around 5-10 mins long. Long enough for the driver to get out of the car and a police man to stop.”

Google has been testing two dozen self-driving Lexus SUVs near its Silicon Valley headquarters. Google’s self-driving cars have driven more than 1.3 million miles since 2009. As of January 2016, they had been involved in 17 crashes, all caused by human error.

The group Consumer Watchdog issued a statement today saying the collision highlighted the need for stricter oversight of the technology. “This accident is more proof that robot car technology is not ready for auto pilot and a human driver needs to be able to take over when something goes wrong,” said the group’s privacy project director, John M. Simpson. “The police should be called to the site of every robot car crash and all technical data and video associated with the accident must be made public.”

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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