For the first time, one of Google's self-driving vehicles appears responsible for causing an accident in Mountain View. The Feb. 14 crash reportedly occurred near the intersection of Castro Street and El Camino Real when the self-driving car was side-swiped by a public bus as it was trying to merge into a traffic lane.
The incident was disclosed on Monday morning in a crash report to the California Department of Motor Vehicles that Google and all other licensed autonomous-vehicles manufacturers are required to provide following an accident.
Google self-driving car director Chris Urmson said that the crash occurred as one of the company's Lexus models was preparing to make a right turn from El Camino onto Castro.
To date, Google's fleet of self-driving cars have been involved in about a dozen accidents. Up until the Feb. 14 incident, all accidents involving self-driving cars have been reportedly due to human error, not the autonomous-driving technology.
During this incident, the Google car moved to the right-hand side of the lane to maneuver by other cars in the same lane that were stopped at a red light. As the car veered to the right, Urmson reported that the vehicle stopped after sensing sandbags placed near a storm drain along the curbside. The car's sensors registered this as a road obstruction and it tried to re-enter the traffic lane heading straight. But by this time, the stoplight turned green and the rest of the cars began moving forward.
A few cars passed, Urmson said in the report, and the test driver sitting in the Google car noticed a Valley Transit Authority bus approaching from behind but thought the bus would yield or slow down. Still in autonomous mode, the self-driving car started to move past the sandbags. That's when the bus, traveling about 15 mph, collided with the autonomous vehicle. The Google car sustained damage along its left side, including a damaged fender, front wheel and sensors. No one was injured from the crash, according to the report.
Google officials did not immediately respond to inquiries for this story. In an interview with the Associated Press, Urmson said the self-driving car did bear some responsibility for the accident.