Space & Innovation

Google Takes Some Blame in Self-Driving Car Bang-Up

Google admits if its car hadn’t moved, there wouldn’t have been a collision.

Google said that 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 transit bus on February 14 in what marked the first time that Google laid some of the 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 a February monthly report about the performance of its self-driving cars.

Tasty Tech Eye Candy: Detroit Auto Show

"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 its parent company Alphabet are based, with a test driver capable of taking control in position when the autonomous vehicle pulled toward a right-hand curb in anticipation of making a right turn.

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

After several vehicles passed, the self-driving car eased back into the center lane believing an approaching transit bus would stop, Google said. The bus did not stop.

"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. Unfortunately, all these assumptions led us to the same spot in the lane at the same time."

A Way For Driverless Cars To See The Road And React

The self-driving car was moving about two miles per hour when it collided with the side of the bus, which was traveling about 15 MPH, the accident report filed by Google said.

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, according to 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 in a release.

"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."

Google has previously disclosed accidents involving its self-driving cars, but maintained that they resulted from the actions of humans and not its technology.

This week in Detroit, automakers showed off dozens of new cars and a handful of conceptual designs. All-electric cars were nearly ubiquitous and making a showing: fuel-cell powered vehicles. Above: Lexus previewed its fuel-cell vehicle the LF-FC concept, which not only has a fuel-cell stack that sends its power to the rear wheels, but also has two in-wheel electric motors to power the front wheels. The company says it plans to go into production by 2020.

People ooohed and ahhhed over the aerodynamic lines of Acura's low-slung Precision with its wide stance with fat wheels. The diamond-shaped theme of the grille and exterior is reflected in the interior, with the headrests and seats. This is what we mean by "eye candy."

VW says its long-range electric microbus will get 200 miles to a charge. The company says this vehicle "marks the beginning of a new era of affordable long-distance electromobility."

The 2017 Pacifica got a lot of attention at the show. It's powered by a plug-in hybrid powertrain, which will give its driver 30 miles of full electric mode before shifting to gasoline. The Pacifica is rated at 80-MPGe and should go on sale later this year.

The Tiguan GTE Active concept is a plug-in hybrid SUV with a four-cylinder engine and two electric motors that switch on after about 20 miles in electric mode.

The Ford Fusion has been around for several years now and this year Ford has added two additional models to the line: the Sport and the Platinum. The Sport will have 325 horsepower and all-wheel drive and the Platinum offers titanium trim and leather seats. The Ford Fusion Energi is an option and has a range of 21 miles on pure electric power before switching over to the hybrid function.

Chevy calls its new all-electric vehicle “the first long-range, affordable EV.” It will have a range of 200 miles and a price before incentives of $37,500.

The new Avista slashes Buick's stereotype of being a car for "grandpa." The sporty two-door coupe concept has 400 horsepower thanks to its twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6.

Audi H-tron has a fuel cell stack designed to drive 310 miles on a tank of hydrogen fuel.

This year, BMW introduced a plug-in hybrid version of the popular 3-Series. The 330e's electric range is about 22 miles before switching to the gas engine.