First accident on public road caused by self-driving car..lessons learned
Google’s self-driving cars aren’t immune to crashes, but for the first time, it was responsible for colliding with a bus last month after it misjudged a safety situation.
Speaking at 2016 South by Southwest Interactive, Chris Urmson, director of the Google self-driving car project, detailed what had happened, and how Google is learning from the incident. Chris stated “It had been a tough day for us”. “We don’t like our cars bumping into things,” Urmson told attendees.
His statement comes nearly a month after Google’s self-driving vehicle hit a public bus near its headquarters. No one was injured, fortunately. Google’s car “sustained body damage to the left front fender, the left front wheel, and one of its drivers side sensors.”
“Fundamentally, this came down to the fact that the car made an assumption of what the Bus Driver was going to do and the bus driver made an assumption of what the car was going to do, and it wasn’t the same assumption,” Urmson said. “The bus driver looked at that gap [in the road] and said, ‘I can make it through,'” he said. “If the car wouldn’t have moved, he would have gotten through, but it did. This happened at 2 mph and [the car] got dragged a bit by the bus… and it ripped off one of our poor sensors.”
While Google continues to learn from what happened, it is still confronted with new situations each day. Situations vary a lot, from taunting teens jumping over the hood of its cars to a man stopping traffic to chase a duck. But the biggest challenge for driverless cars is still the technology. This even includes moral or ethical reasoning that requires the vehicle to make a quick decision in an emergency situation. Its algorithm weighs situations on the road to avoid hitting pedestrians first, then other moving objects and then stationary objects, which could be something like a trash can.
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