Why Google self-driving Lexus Valentine is a big hit with bus—and at fault?


It seems the old “Love is Blind” saying was true for the Google self-driving Lexus that gave a Valentine’s gift to a transit bus in Mountain View–it hit the bus not with long kiss but with a slow steady sideswipe.

That Valentine’s Day crash in which a self-driving Google robot car sideswiped a bus demonstrates the need for a police investigation and the release of technical data and video associated with the crash, Consumer Watchdog said today.

Google’s account of the crash was posted on the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ website today and the self-driving robot car appears to have been at fault, notes Consumer Watchdog.

“This accident is more proof that robot car technology is not ready for auto pilot and a human driver needs to be able to takeover when something goes wrong. Google’s one-paragraph account of what caused it to drive into a bus is not good enough to inform new rules of the road for robot cars,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director.  “The police should be called to the site of every robot car crash and all technical data and video associated with the accident must be made public.”

According to the report on the DMV’s website, the car had moved into the right side of the lane at a traffic light to make a right turn on red, but was blocked by sandbags. The traffic light turned green and several cars started through the intersection. The Google robot car moved back toward the center of the lane to go around the sand bags and sideswiped the bus, which was passing, the report says.

A Google Lexus autonomous vehicle (“Google A V”) was traveling in autonomous mode eastbound on  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 n right turn on red onto Castro. St. The Google AV 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 A V 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 A V began to proceed back into the center of the lane to pas the sand bags. 

A public transit bus was approaching from behind, The Google A V test the driver saw the bus approaching in the left side mirror but believed the bus would stop or allow the Google A V to continue.

Approximately three seconds later as Google AV was reentering the center of the lane it make contact with the side of bus.

The Google A V was operating in autonomous mode and traveling at less than 2 mph, and the bus was traveling at about 15mph at the time of contact.
The Google AV sustained body damage to the left front fender, the left front wheel and one of the driver’s side sensors. There were no injuries reported at the scene.”

Consumer Watchdog petitioned the DMV on Sept. 24, 2015 calling for every robot car accident to be investigated by police and accompanied by a release of technical and video data associated with the crash  The nonprofit nonpartisan group has advocated for DMV rules, currently in draft form, that require robot cars to have the ability for a human driver to take over. Google has opposed those rules.

Consumer Watchdog said that the crash was further proof that Google’s self-driving robot cars cannot reliably cope with everyday ordinary driving situations.  In early January, Google released a DMV-required “disengagement report” revealing that the self-driving technology failed 341 times in 15 months.  The autonomous robot technology turned over control 272 times and the test driver felt compelled to intervene 69 times.

The California DMV’s proposed regulations for the deployment of self-driving vehicles require that there be a driver be wheel capable of taking control.  The National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration has recently said that a self-driving system can count as the driver of an autonomous robot car.

Consumer Watchdog called on Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind to put safety first and require a driver behind the wheel as national self-driving car policies are developed.

Comment from AUTO Connected Car News

We are wondering if anyone on the bus took video, if so it would be a YouTube or Instagram hit. The next best thing would be the video shot from the many cameras on the Google self-driving car