Newly released video shows a February accident involving an autonomous Google vehicle and a municipal bus in Mountain View, California. The video hit the internet Tuesday after being released to the Associated Press.
Google’s accepted some responsibility for the Valentine’s Day crash that crumpled the Lexus SUVs front fender, left front wheel and one of its driver’s-side radar sensors. No one was hurt.
Here’s what happened according to Google’s accident report. Its self-driving SUV, outfitted with special sensors, hit the bus after trying to go around sandbags surrounding a manhole in its path. Google says after allowing a few cars pass, the car prepared to move left and forward around the bags. That’s when it hit the bus that had approached from behind. The Lexus driver did not have control at the time.
“The Google [car] test driver saw the bus approaching in the left side mirror but believed the bus would stop or slow to allow the Google [car] to continue,” the report stated.
According to the DMV report, the Google car, a 2012 Lexus RX450, was only going 2 mph at the time.
“We can imagine the bus driver assumed we were going to stay put. Unfortunately, all these assumptions led us to the same spot in the lane at the same time,” Google said. “This type of misunderstanding happens between human drivers on the road every day.”
Google says it made software changes to better “understand” and respond to busses and other large vehicles that may not always yield.
“This is a classic example of the negotiation that’s a normal part of driving — we’re all trying to predict each other’s movements. In this case, 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.”
Google’s self-driving cars have been involved in more than a dozen accidents since 2009. However, this is the first crash that hasn’t been the result of other drivers rear-ending the cars.
Next week, the head of Google’s autonomous car project will head to Washington to testify before lawmakers about autonomous driving safety alongside other auto industry execs.