Google Self-Driving Car Causes Its First Accident With A Mountain View CA Public Transit Bus

It would appear that one of Google's self-driving cars was involved in an accident that's not the fault of the other driver, tarnishing what's been a blame-free driving record up to this point. Based on a police report posted to California's Department of Motor Vehicles, the incident involved one of Google's Lexus models and a public bus.

The report states that Google's vehicle was traveling in autonomous mode headed east in the far right lane on El Camino Real in Mountain View. As the vehicle approached an intersection, it signaled its intention to turn right and then moved into the right-hand side of the lane to pass traffic. The vehicle then encountered sandbags in the road that it attempted to avoid, and when it veered back into the center lane, it clipped an ongoing public transit bus.

Google Self Driving Car

"The Google AV test driver saw the bus approaching in 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 at less than 2 mph, and the bus was traveling at about 15 mph at the time of contact," the report states.

No injuries were reported, though the self-driving Lexus did sustain body damage to the left front fender and left front wheel, along with one of its driver's side sensors. This also serves as the first blemish on Google's autonomous driving program that can be assigned to a mistake the self-driving car made rather than pinning the blame entirely on the other driver. In every previous accident Google's autonomous fleet has been involved it, the car itself has never been at fault.

Google admitted at least partial blame in this instance. In a monthly self-driving report that's due out tomorrow, Google states, "We clearly bear some responsibility, because if our car hadn't moved there wouldn't have been a collision." According to Google, both the sensors and test driver believed the bus was going to slow or stop so that the Lexus could merge.

Google Lexus RX450h

"We've now 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," Google said.

This incident won't slow Google's program down. In keeping perspective, Google's self-driving cars have logged millions of miles. They haven't been immune to accidents, but in each incident except for this latest one, the other driver has been at fault.