Google says it bears “some responsibility” after one of its self-driving cars struck a municipal bus in a minor crash earlier this month.
The crash may be the first case of one of Google’s autonomous cars hitting another vehicle and making an error. The Mountain View, Calif.-based Internet search leader and tech firm said it updated its software after the crash to avoid future incidents.
In a Feb. 23 report filed with California regulators, Google said the crash took place in Mountain View on Feb. 14 when a self-driving Lexus RX450h sought to get around some sandbags in a wide lane.
Google, which is now a unit of parent Alphabet Inc., said in the filing the autonomous vehicle was traveling at less than 2 miles per hour, while the bus was moving at about 15 miles per hour.
The vehicle and the test driver “believed the bus would slow or allow the Google (autonomous vehicle) to continue,” it said, but three seconds later, as the Google car in autonomous mode re-entered the center of the lane, it struck the side of the bus, causing damage to the left front fender, front wheel and a driver side sensor. No one was injured.
Google said in a statement that “we clearly bear some responsibility, because if our car hadn’t moved, there wouldn’t have been a collision. That said, our test driver believed the bus was going to slow or stop to allow us to merge into the traffic, and that there would be sufficient space to do that.”
The company also said it has reviewed this incident “and thousands of variations on it in our simulator in detail and made refinements to our software. From now on, our cars will more deeply understand that buses (and other large vehicles) are less likely to yield to us than other types of vehicles, and we hope to handle situations like this more gracefully in the future.”
There has been no official determination of fault in the crash. Google has previously said that its autonomous vehicles have never been at fault in any crashes.
The Mountain View Police Department said that no police report was filed in the incident.
Stacey Hendler Ross, spokeswoman for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which operates municipal buses in Mountain View and other cities in the area, confirmed the incident occurred, but said she did not know any details.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles said today that manufacturers of autonomous vehicles must report crashes, but “the DMV is not responsible for determining fault.”
A spokesman for the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declined to comment.