Google robo-car backs into bendy-bus in California

Self-driving car's slow-motion sandbag situation ends in dented reputations

Alphabet has filed an accident report with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, in which it says one of its autonomous cars had a low-speed bingle with a bendy-bus.

The report says its self-driving kitted-up Lexus found itself baulked by sandbags at an intersection.

The car “was travelling in autonomous mode eastbound on El Camino Real in Mountain View in the far right-hand lane approaching the Castro St intersection”.

After signalling that it wanted to make a right-hand turn and stopping at the intersection, “the Google AV had to come to a stop and go around sandbags positioned around a storm drain that were blocking its path”.

It was while reversing that the bus approached from behind. The vehicle's test operator thought the bus would stop, but “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 whole thing involved only minor damage and no injuries, since the Google-mobile was travelling at less than two miles per hour and the bus at just 15 mph.

The Valentine's Day accident is feasibly the first time one of Google's robo-cars has been involved in an accident it “caused”. However, The Register notes, Google's test operator made the judgement that the bus was probably going to give the car space to reverse. So a human factor was at play here, not just a failure of machine thinking. ®


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