Google’s self-driving car project took a bit of a hit last month when one of its autonomous Lexus SUVs collided with a city bus in Mountain View, California. The collision was minor and no injuries were reported, but the incident made waves due to its status as Google’s first self-driving accident where the vehicle itself was at fault.
On March 9, the Associated Press (via the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority) released surveillance film of the crash online, which shows the impact from multiple angles.
As the footage shows, the white Lexus was stopped on the right hand side of the lane, waiting to merge back into traffic after encountering sandbags blocking its path. As traffic began to move, the Google autonomous vehicle (Google AV) signaled that it was returning to the center lane. A transit bus, however, was approaching from the rear. The autonomous vehicle’s safety driver assumed that “the bus would stop or slow to allow the Google AV to continue,” but it didn’t, causing the Lexus to bump into the right side of the bus.
“Our test driver, who had been watching the bus in the mirror, also expected the bus to slow or stop,” Google said in a statement. “And we can imagine the bus driver assumed we were going to stay put. Unfortunately, all these assumptions led us to the same spot in the lane at the same time. This type of misunderstanding happens between human drivers on the road every day.”
Thankfully, since the speeds were low — the Google AV was traveling at 2 mph while the bus was going 15 mph — the damage was minimal. The Lexus suffered scrapes and dents to its front left fender and bumper, while the bus ended up with a long scratch, a cracked glass panel, and one of Google’s radar units stuck in its side.