Google released its February Self-Driving Car Project report yesterday—which for the first time ever includes a crash it caused.
Reported to the California DMV Feb. 14, the collision was minor: at Mountain View’s El Camino Real and Castro Street intersection, Google’s Lexus RX SUV, while in autonomous mode, “made contact with the side of a passing bus traveling at 15 mph,” according to Google’s monthly report.
“Our car had detected the approaching bus, but predicted that it would yield to us because we were ahead of it,” the report said. Though the car’s test driver saw the bus, too, he also assumed it would slow or stop.
While Google acknowledged its car and test driver were partly to blame, the report was quick to point out the accident was not attributable to self-driving and could have happened to any non-autonomous car on the street. “This type of misunderstanding happens between human drivers on the road every day,” Google said. “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.”
Since Feb. 14, Google said it has simulated the crash “and thousands of variations on it” to refine its software. While the collision caused only minor damage to the Google autonomous vehicle and, more importantly, no injuries, time will tell if its damage to public opinion will be more serious. So far, a quick roundup of news reports shows most people aren’t all that upset, and even expect—and accept—that more accidents like this are bound to happen in the future.
In addition to Mountain View, Google is also testing autonomous cars in Austin, Texas, and Kirkland, Washington.