Video shows Google self-driving car hitting city bus

Brittany A. Roston - Mar 9, 2016
Video shows Google self-driving car hitting city bus

Valentine's Day marked the first instance of a Google self-driving car causing an accident, and now there's a video of it taking place. Recently released by the Associated Press, the video shows the bus before, during, and after being struck by the autonomous vehicle, as well as shots of the Google car itself. While the bus doesn't appear to suffer much from the blow (its damage mostly amounts to long scratches and cracked glass), the Google car isn't quite as lucky.

The impact is brief, and as you can see in the video, passengers do little more than glance over as the car hits the bus. The driver looks mildly irritated, and ushers the passengers off the bus following the impact. According to the initial report, the Google car was only going 2MPH at the time of the impact, while the bus was traveling at about 15MPH.

The incident occurred after the self-driving Google car intended to turn right, but encountered some sandbags placed in the road. It had to go around them, and so tried to merge left. The driver in the Google car wasn’t in control when the incident happened, and had believed the bus would slow down to let the car in. The bus didn’t slow down, however, and so the car ended up striking the bus’s right side. Damage was described as minor.

As the photos at the end of the video show, the Google car suffered a flat tire, damaged fender and bumper, and it appears some of the added on-board tech was also damaged, likely the most costly of the incident. News of the accident first surfaced in a report published online by the California DMV. At the time, Google’s self-driving boss Chris Urmson said:

We clearly bear some responsibility, because if our car hadn’t moved there wouldn’t have been a collision … We saw the bus, we tracked the bus, we thought the bus was going to slow down, we started to pull out, there was some momentum involved.

This isn’t the first time a Google car has been involved in a wreck, but is the first time the car itself was responsible rather than a human driver. The incident represents a situation where two self-driving cars may prove safer than humans: if the bus had been able to communicate with the autonomous car, there would have been no guessing about whether the bus driver intended to slow down and the incident would have been avoided.