Google self driving car hits a bus, Google bears the responsibility

by: John DyeFebruary 29, 2016
2.2K

Google self driving cars

Google’s self driving car initiative is one of the most ambitious and controversial projects currently under the scrutiny of the public eye. Although the search giant has had six years of experience under their belt with only 17 minor accidents occurring across over two million miles of test driving, this month marks the first time that a self-driving vehicle bore any culpability in a traffic incident.

On Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2016, a self-driving Lexus RX450h attempted to navigate around some sandbags placed in a wide lane. A bus traveling at 15 mph approached the Google car from behind, occupying same wide lane as the smart car. The Lexus attempted to re-enter the center of the lane while moving at a speed of 2 mph.

Vehicle prototypeSee also: Google partners with car manufacturers to create self driving cars3

Google reported in a statement last week that the smart car anticipated that the bus would slow down to allow the self driving car to continue, but the bus did not. When the smart car re-entered the center of the lane, it struck the side of the bus causing minor damage to the front left fender, front wheel, and a sensor. There were no injuries, and no police report was filed.

In spite of the lack of police involvement, which usually determines culpability, Google says they are at least partially responsible for the incident. Their traffic algorithms take into account the common practice of vehicles slowing down to accommodate the merging of others. It would appear that buses and similar large vehicles are less likely to slow down in these situations, and Google says they are making adjustments based on this and “thousands of variations on it in our simulator,” to make their vehicles “more deeply understand that buses (and other large vehicles) are less likely to yield to us than other types of vehicles.”

Google is taking a stance that this is all a part of the learning process, but even extremely small incidents like this can be damaging to the development of self driving cars. Although many futurists believe that this revolution is inevitable, public fear and concerns that feed on smart-car culpable accidents may seriously delay this technology becoming mainstream.

What are your thoughts regarding self driving cars? Robbing us of our autonomy, or heralding a bright new world of technology? Let us know your opinion and predictions in the comments below!

Samsung Logo Close Up AANext: Samsung plans to get into the self-driving car industry6
  • Kazahani

    I’m probably less thrilled than most about self-driving cars. I can’t read or be on my phone in a moving car or I get sick. Might as well be driving.

    • AndroidDev123

      As “riding” takes over for “driving” as the primary activity people do in vehicles, I’m sure work will be done on improving the experience for people who are more sensitive to it. Whether that’s shading the windows to reduce conflicting stimuli, improved shocks to reduce bumps, or smoothing out driving algorithms to minimize speed changes, I’m sure car manufacturers will focus on it as a way to differentiate themselves from eachother.

      • Kazahani

        A fair point. Honestly though, I wish they were putting all this money and effort into AI. A little disembodied voice that lives in my console that can talk to me and tell me if my electric bill is late and tell me what lane to get in or if there’s a wreck up ahead would be more valuable to me.

        • mattcoz

          They can do both.

    • ToasTd

      You could just lean back and enjoy the scenery and serenity as the roads declutter from human idiocy.

    • EngineerGunter

      Funny how many people are just the opposite… Think they can both drive AND read/text… Maybe the self driving car is meant for them? Would definitely make the roads safer for everyone else…

    • Jean-François Lévesque

      Just watch a movie then :-)

    • hamachi

      I have same symptom with you on cars, but I still believe self driving car is useful, it could ease the driver through traffic jam.

    • John Doe

      Or you could catch up on sleep ..

  • EngineerGunter

    I say, good for them! Every little mistake made now will only further refine the technology – further solidifying its future! Now, if the cars starts running over children, that will definitely put a damper on things… In the grand scheme of things, this incident is only helping the realization of this technology.

  • AndroidDev123

    I’ve said since before I had my license, when auto pilot in cars was only science fiction, that I’d never be as safe as a driver as a self driving car. Now that it’s a real possibility the change can’t come soon enough. Even if it makes you nervous to put your fate in the hands of a machine/algorithm, you’ll still be infinitely more safe than trusting your own reaction times or those of other drivers, who may or may not be impaired. I hope rare failures don’t slow the progress required through the legal system, as each year it’s delayed means countless more unnecessary deaths.

  • hzd

    I don’t see how google is going to resolve issues like this, an algorithm that assumes curtsey apon other drivers is plain madness on their part.

    Many drivers simply dont think about what others might do an bumble along in their own world where they are number one ( any driver who says they have never done such a thing are liars, his many times have you not let someone out because they have already stopped half out of a junction ) as many people know bus drivers and taxi drivers are the worst ! Busses in the UK indicate 3 times and then pull out regardless almost like its some religion.

    Machines can’t accurately predict arseholes and accidents WILL happen worse than this at some point, the only way to make those vehicles safer on the roads is to re educate drivers.

    That would ‘t happen anytime soon because people are ignorant and we’re All guilty of it at some point

  • moew

    I want to drink and have google drive me around.

  • Technology is making our lives easier, for sure. Technology is protecting us from things we’re probably not even aware are happening. Factory Automation, turns out better and consistent products. Medical science is helping people live longer and without pain. I love it.

    But worries me is that I have no idea how to grow my own food. Even though I have minor carpentry skills, I probably cannot build a place to live, certainly not like I have now. If there were no longer medicines, many would die. I still know how to use Ohm’s law and design circuits but I have met very few that do.

    IF technology stopped, we’d all go back to stone knives and bear skins. It would be much like the planet of the apes as you saw humans de-evolving. I am pretty sure that if we all got used to automated vehicles, and they stopped working, then we’d probably be OK but it is the other stuff that bothers me.

    IF one of those gamma bursts, solar flares, EMPs, – whatever; you get the idea – were to hit the planet, It would be total anarchy.

    Self driving cars do not bother me. Go for it. I would love to doze on the way to work or the marketplace.

    • Anonymous

      You watch too much movies

    • mattcoz

      If a gamma burst hit the planet, anarchy would be the least of our problems.

  • Zachariah T Kelley

    Why nobody should even get worked up on this is the fact that another self driving car would most likely let this car in. Once they become all over the place, there won’t be these unpredictable errors. Everyone needs to make sure that within a certain range of another self driving driving car that they can talk to each other. No matter the manufacturer.

    • Randy N. Gaston

      I would presume that the future of self driving cars would involve them communication with each other. And when they are all self driving cars that communicate with each other, there will be no need for red lights or stop signs, etc…

      • Gauthier Abel

        Well, I think there will still be at least some “manual” drivers, so they would still need the traditional signalisation devices somewhere…

  • Bobby

    My thoughts? Well don’t mind if I do! In my opinion, You take your own life in your hand when you operate a motor vehicle. If you trust to take your life in a computer’s hands, then it is your choice! If the technology is applied to semi trucks, as is the ultimate goal, it is putting anybody’s life who is traveling or near enough to an interstate, which is where the problem lies in my opinion. This technology must be perfected, and should put the objects of least mass in the greatest risk category./ That is, don’t let semi trucks plow over small cars, that would be bad.

  • Diego

    Drivers today,, man.

  • GhostRecon55

    It was big of Google to take partial culpability. This will help advance the science quicker than trying to deny any fault. BUT, how many of us understand that large trucks and especially busses will not yield or give an inch at any time.
    Thank you Google and keep advancing this science.

  • Ruby

    If it was a VW autonomous vehicle, the story would have been about a hit and run accident.

  • k

    The biggest issue with the self driving cars, are the other human drivers

    • John Doe

      that are not in them .. correct?

    • Steve B

      Untill they only have self driving cars there always be these issues , and THAT is not going to happen for a long time. There are too many “I’ll stop driving when they take the steering wheel out of my cold dead hands” people

  • Aki I.

    I wonder if designated self driving lanes would help the cars not have to deal with human unpredictability all the time. That way they only have to deal with other self driving cars most of the time.

    • noyus

      then you will find out human unpredictability means they will drive their car on self-drive lane as well :D

  • PaulC

    Heck, would ANY of us yield to a car going 2mph? Evidently, the bus was able to drive down the middle of the lane despite the sand bags. If you can’t navigate around stuff in the road without slowing to 2mph then you need to get off of the road.

    • dds

      This. The fault was Google’s. No one in their right mind would let in front of them some pansy driving @ 2mph and doing weird maneuvre’s around sandbags. Especially not someone who could not afford potentially getting slowed down by the weirdo. Bus size is irrelevant here.

    • Lindle

      This. This is the reason why I hate driving in my country

    • John Doe

      By the sound of it, lanes were closed off due to sandbags on the road. The Google car need to merge into another lane that a slow moving bus was in and the bus driver did not yield to the google car attempting to merge… and there you have it!
      This would (and will not) happen if all traffic will be self-driving automobiles…

  • Yolø23

    Good that Google take responsibility for this accident. Still it wasn’t the self driving car how crashed but the bus. Image if the bus was self driving it could probably stop before it hit the car

  • TheDude

    lol, in my country nobody slows down to allow others to merge into their lane, everyone cares about themselves only and don’t care about any courtesy, if the self driving car was driving here it would have gotten into a shitload of accidents like this.

    • Lindle

      In my country, if you turn on your signal lights, the person would intentionally speed up to prevent you from merging

      • haier

        Don’t worry, Google algorithm will take that into account.

        Next time the car will turn without signal light.

      • SeanPR11

        Are you from Philly? That describes driving here perfectly.

        • Lindle

          Philppines? yes Philidelphi? no.

  • Rishicash

    Like a driver hasn’t hit a school bus or another car or a pole or a house or….

  • SeanPR11

    No biggie…. I wonder how many THOUSANDS of accidents occurred on Valentines day with people driving?

  • Android Developer

    Is there any video showing the accident? I wonder why this happened.

  • Steve B

    Good luck with “anticipating that the other vehicle will slow and let you in” fits right in with “assume” Self driving cars=targets

  • I am sooo tired

    Hiel Hitler
    Its a trend in government, take away the right to drive, the right to defend ones self. In Canada municipalities have outlawed transfat for cooking, the senate is looking to tax sugar products due to obesity concerns. In the US the police are not trusted anymore. Government and corporations are working against the common man to the end of an authoritarian life where the humans become the automaton trapped within law and bureaucracy. Hitler did it first and now Canada and America are fitting in. It is for your own good, for your safety, to insure and ensure your future. As oppose to spending on education and allowing people to choose, governments are trending to be the overlord parent of their citizens (children).
    Soon it will be like Fahrenheit 451 ebooks will be all we have and paper will not only not be a choice the decision will be made to outlaw it.
    Look around at your government, don’t be paranoid be aware.

    • jamesschneiderfreuden

      From self driving cars straight to Hitler. Seems very reasonable.

      • Geri Peak

        Thanks for the satire. the only reasonable response to such people.

  • jj

    Given the self driving cars will need to obey speed limits – will drivers be frustrated at the “slow” speed and increased travel time. On the other hand well regulated traffic may actually result in faster arrival times. Also possible speed limits may go up if accidents go down or are totally eliminated. Will only happen if human drivers are prohibited or restricted to live lanes only

  • Daryl Diamond

    Elderly and disabled will enjoy an immense increase in personal freedom from this technology. Keep it coming!