By now you’ve most likely heard about the fender-bender that involved a Google self-driving car and a public transit bus in California on Valentine’s Day.
Now it appears we have video evidence showing the damage the Google self-driving car sustained.
A YouTube video posted by Joshua Smith shows a Google self-driving car pulled over on the side of the road with damage to its front left fender. This seems to be in line with the accident report (PDF) filed with the California DMV, which said the Google self-driving car “sustained body damage to the left front fender, the left front wheel and one of its driver’s-side sensors.”
The drive-by video is the only video on Smith’s YouTube channel and, at press time, was uploaded less than 24 hours ago.
“We were behind it a few cars and traffic was moving really slow. Didn’t know it had been hit until he pulled over past the intersection,” Smith writes on YouTube. “We got caught at the light and it was around 5-10 mins long. Long enough for the driver to get out of the car and a police man to stop.?”
Here’s more from the accident report (PDF): “A Google Lexus-model autonomous vehicle (“Google AV”) was traveling in autonomous mode eastbound on El Camino Real in Mountain View in the far right-hand lane approaching the Castro St. intersection. As the Google AV approached the intersection, it signaled its intent to make a right turn on red onto Castro St. The Google AV then moved to the right-hand side of the lane to pass traffic in the same lane that was stopped at the intersection and proceeding straight.
“However, the Google AV had to come to a stop and go around sandbags positioned around a storm drain that were blocking its path. When the light turned green, traffic in the lane continued past the Google AV. After a few cars had passed, the Google AV began to proceed back into the center of the lane and pass the sandbags. A public transit bus was approaching from behind.
“The Google AV test driver saw the bus approaching the left side mirror but believed the bus would stop or slow to allow the Google AV to continue. Approximately three seconds later, as the Google AV was reentering the center of the lane it made contact with the side of the bus. The Google AV was operating in autonomous mode and traveling less than 2 mph, and the bus was traveling at about 15 mph at the time of contact.”
Nobody was injured at the scene. Since the accident, Google has come out and claimed “some responsibility” for the accident. The accident report doesn’t say who was at fault. However, if it’s determined the Google self-driving car was at fault, it would be the first time one of its self-driving cars caused an accident while in autonomous mode.
Google has been testing two dozen self-driving Lexus SUVs near its Silicon Valley headquarters. Google’s self-driving cars have driven more than 1.3 million miles since 2009. As of January 2016, they had been involved in 17 crashes, all caused by human error.
Is the Crash a Good Thing?
Brad Templeton, a developer of and commentator on self-driving cars, believes Google’s accident with the bus actually is a positive sign in the development of self-driving cars. Why? He explains:
“Because Google is starting to work on problems like these, and you need to solve these problems to drive even in orderly places like California. And yes, you are going to have some mistakes, and some dings, on the way there, and that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.