News

Google self-driving car blamed for crash with bus

VTA bus, Google Lexus collide at Castro Street and El Camino Real in Mountain View

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.

Comments

6 people like this
Posted by misleading title, again
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2016 at 12:19 pm

Title says "Google self-driving car blamed for crash with bus"

Article ends with "Urmson said the self-driving car did bear some responsibility for the accident."

So, who is doing the blaming?


20 people like this
Posted by Polly Wanacracker
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 1, 2016 at 12:33 pm

So does the Google car have to attend comedy traffic school?


7 people like this
Posted by tinareilly
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 1, 2016 at 12:37 pm

tinareilly is a registered user.

From what I've heard, the bus was going 15mph & the Google car was going 2mph. Doesn't really sound like a crash, more like a "bump".


4 people like this
Posted by A Noun E Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 1, 2016 at 12:58 pm

Skynet has achieved self awareness.


13 people like this
Posted by A neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2016 at 1:56 pm

I am very sorry for the self driving car as it didn't know one thing and that is that it should consider the VTA bus a special case and yield to it without ever assuming that the bus will yield.
I have run into a similar situation with VTA buses many times. Approaching a stopped VTA bus on the lane to its left I have noticed that most of the bus drivers pull out of their bus stop and come into my lane if I show the slightest bit of hesitation. I think they feel their mission of shuttling people around on time is the highest priority or sth. Like that. It also doesn't hurt that the bus is so much bigger than a car.


2 people like this
Posted by DMV Rules
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2016 at 2:10 pm

In India, it is said: "Nirvana can be attained through a head-on collision with a lorry." What does enlightenment look like for a self-driving vehicle? Deep thoughts.


8 people like this
Posted by HAL
a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2016 at 2:21 pm

"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."


It can only be attributed to human error.


6 people like this
Posted by Whats it for?
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2016 at 2:27 pm

In what circumstances would one use a self-driving car?
Most of the time one needs to be present at the destination.
ok, picking someone up at the airport?


22 people like this
Posted by Not Surprised
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2016 at 2:27 pm

I have seen Google self-driving cars: run a stop sign on San Antonio; make an illegal left turn against a red light on Shoreline; and run a stoplight on Castro. The first two times I called Mtn View PD with the license number, but was told there was nothing they could do if an officer didn't see it-- or if it didn't cause a collision. Actually, the incident of the illegal left turn on Shoreline very nearly caused a side impact to the Google Lexus-/ fortunately the Mercedes whose right-of-way was violated had very good brakes.

The stoplight violation on Castro I didn't bother calling in, because if the police don't care, why should I?

BTW, our insurance agent has twice told us that the auto insurance industry as a whole has decided that if the self-driving cars are made available to the general public, they will absolutely not insure them. The law states that an uninsured vehicle cannot be legally allowed on the road.


6 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Mar 1, 2016 at 2:47 pm

You DO NOT NEED insurance to drive in California.

You need any *one* of the following:

1.) Motor vehicle liability insurance policy.
2.) Cash deposit of $35,000 with DMV.
3.) DMV-issued self-insurance certificate.
4.) Surety bond for $35,000 from a company licensed to do business in California.

Source: Web Link


14 people like this
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 1, 2016 at 3:42 pm

Call up Feinstein Deleon and Boxer these self driving cars must be banned. Think of thechildren!


13 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2016 at 3:49 pm

If you want to report a problem with the self-driving cars, report it to Google at:
Web Link using the "Contact Us" link. I did that once and got a nice reply with a promise to address the issue I noted.


Like this comment
Posted by Colossus The Fordbin Project
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2016 at 10:34 pm

What happens to all the self-driving cards if the judge suspends Google's driver's license? ;-)

>>> Call up Feinstein Deleon and Boxer these self driving cars must be banned. Think of thechildren!

Wow, can self-driving cars have children already?

How many miles have these cars racked up and how many accidents have they had? I've heard they are more reliable than humans so far ... but they cannot make complicated decisions or parse unpredictable situations? In other words ... they are not really self-diriving at this point. So ... I wonder if this is something the software got wrong, of the human failed to react in time to save? I've seem these folks driving around in these cars around Safeway up and down San Antonio and into Palo Alto, and they do seem rather bored most of the time ... who knows what they might get up to in those cars????

Hope they get this productized sometime soon though ... it sure would be nice to be able to use driving time for something productive.


3 people like this
Posted by Colossus The Fordbin Project
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2016 at 10:36 pm

Legally, who exactly is the driver of these cars?


13 people like this
Posted by Close Call
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2016 at 1:04 pm

Apparently VTA buses and their drivers never yield the right of way.

Last night, on the way home from work, a VTA bus ran a red light to make a left turn and I came very close to T-boning the bus ( which had ONE passenger, BTW).

One week earlier, another VTA bus ran a stop sign to turn to make a right-hand turn right in front of me. That required that I slam on my brakes. I got the license plate and bus number of that one, and called the VTA.

Do these bus drivers think that because of the bus's size, other vehicles MUST stop for them, regardless of what stupid maneuver they make? Many times the other vehicle simple can NOT stop in time.

For this reason, I would be willing to bet the Google car's right of way was violated by the VTA bus!


9 people like this
Posted by Bus Watcher
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 2, 2016 at 3:29 pm

"which had ONE passenger, BTW"

That's a pretty good load for VTA.


5 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2016 at 3:36 pm

> VTA bus ran red light ..

This happens all the time. People can report these occurrences to VTA, but it's not clear what, if anything, will happen to the unionized driver.

What's needed are "black boxes" on these buses which log all actions by drivers, which would include running red lights. Forcing the issue with County Supervisors would be necessary, but it's hard to know how they will advocate for the public as opposed to protecting "union rights".


6 people like this
Posted by Bus Watcher
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 2, 2016 at 3:53 pm

Can't we install Google's technology to drive those buses? Then we could achieve a major Guinness-worthy milestone: no humans at all on board most of them.


4 people like this
Posted by The Future is coming
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 4, 2016 at 11:35 am

There is a famous quote: "People in the 'middle ages' didn’t know they were living in the 'middle ages'.”

We are in the "middle ages" of personalized transportation, but the enlightenment is approaching. In 10-20 years, all new cars will be driverless. All new cars will be electric. Most people (especially those in urban/suburban areas) will give up car ownership in lieu of Uber (Google/Apple?) self-driving, on-demand car services. We will look back at the inefficiencies of personal ownership of gas-guzzling cars and shake our heads at how we could have lived that way.

The naysayers will claim this is rubbish -- people will never trust driverless cars. People will never want to give up the luxury of driving themselves everywhere. At the turn of the 20th century, the naysayers declared the same about "horseless carriages".

While my children are learning to drive, and will have the "pleasure" of car ownership, buying insurance and maintaining their cars, I guarantee this will not be the case for my grandchildren...


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 4, 2016 at 12:25 pm

In high school 45 years ago I was guaranteed we'd be long out of oil by now.


Like this comment
Posted by Stan Hutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 4, 2016 at 3:26 pm

VTA cuts off bicyclists, too. I personally was cut off several times. Once I boarded the bus that was picking up passengers after it cut me off in the bike lane and chewed the driver out. Other times I was glad to escape uninjured.
One of these times I'll get injured or worse, and my heirs will sue "deep pockets".
Google cars expect other drivers to honor the rules of the road, and for people to be reasonably careful. Maybe that is expecting too much?


Like this comment
Posted by The Future Has Been Canceled
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 4, 2016 at 3:51 pm

"Google cars expect other drivers to honor the rules of the road, and for people to be reasonably careful."

Google cars are apparently naive and also unaware that drivers use iPhones.


2 people like this
Posted by The future can't be stopped
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 4, 2016 at 4:10 pm

Naive today, but learning (like my teenagers!). Self-driving cars are not ready for prime time today, but will be in the next couple of years. It's the humans who are on their iphones that need the self-driving cars the most!

Will there be accidents with self-driving cars -- of course. Will there even be deaths in self driving car accidents -- has to be. But will the number of accidents / deaths be drastically lower than today -- guaranteed.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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