Mar 02, 2016

    Google's self-drive car partly to blame for crash


    GOOGLE on Monday said its self-driving car bore some of the blame in a recent fender-bender after making the kind of assumption a human might have made.

    A Lexus car converted into an autonomous vehicle by the Internet company had a low-speed collision with a bus on Feb 14 in what marked the first time that Google laid some responsibility for a crash on the software brains.

    "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," Google said in last month's report on its self-driving cars.

    "In this case, we clearly bear some responsibility, because if our car hadn't moved, there wouldn't have been a collision."

    A report filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles contained details of the incident.

    It said the Lexus was in Mountain View, where Google and parent company Alphabet are based, with a test driver capable of taking control in position when the vehicle pulled towards a curb in anticipation of making a right turn.

    The car stopped after detecting sandbags near a storm drain, then waited for a break in traffic to get around the obstruction, the report indicated.

    After several vehicles passed, the car eased back into the centre lane believing an approaching bus would stop, Google said.

    "Our test driver, who had been watching the bus in the mirror, also expected the bus to slow or stop," Google said in its monthly report.

    "And we can imagine the bus driver assumed we were going to stay put."

    The accident was reviewed and software modified to "more deeply understand" that buses and other large vehicles are less likely to yield to the self-driving cars, said Google.

    But critics of the autonomous cars were not so forgiving. "This accident is more proof that robot car technology is not ready for auto pilot and a human driver needs to be able to take over when something goes wrong," Consumer Watchdog privacy project director John Simpson said.