Google’s autonomous vehicles have been involved in several accidents in the past, but it has always been the case that the other party was to blame. This latest event however, which took place in California in mid-February, may be the first time the autonomous vehicle has been at fault.
The situation sounds complicated – the Google car was travelling at around 2mph as it navigated around some sandbags covering a storm drain that was blocking its path. In order to make the manoeuvre, the car had to cross into a parallel lane and was sideswiped by a passing bus travelling at 15mph. The human sitting in the Google car saw the bus approaching but believed that it would stop or slow to allow the Google vehicle to complete its manoeuvre. As a result, the driver did not override the Google car and take control, resulting in the incident.
The damage was minimal and no one was injured in the crash.
Google is to meet with California's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to discuss the incident this week and determine where the blame lies.
Google has already come out and said it bears some responsibility for the collision but added that it has already modified its autonomous software to take into account similar situations.
If Google is found to be at fault, it could be a setback for the company’s plans, just as things were looking up. There was a motion recently for self driving cars to be given the same legal recognition as a human car driver
, according to a letter sent last month by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to Google.
The insurance industry will be watching closely in the wake of the first auto accident in which a Google self driving car could be to blame.