Google's self-driving cars have been undergoing road testing since 2009 and up until now they have yet to be responsible for any accidents. However, last month one of the vehicles had a collision with a public bus while it was driving in autonomous mode.
The accident happened on Valentine's Day in California while the vehicle was driving on El Camino Real which is a wide boulevard with three lanes that runs through Mountain View and up to San Francisco. Google's car was going just 2 mph when it collided with the bus which was traveling at 15 mph.
None of the passengers, the driver of the bus, or the human driver of Google's car were injured. The self-driving vehicle received damage to its left front bumper, left front wheel and one of the sensors on the drivers side while the bus only received minor damage.
Currently no determination of liability has been made but Google believes that it bears some of the responsibility. The company will be detailing the events of the crash in its regular monthly report on its self-driving cars.
Google thinks that the accident that occurred resembled the common misunderstandings that occur between drivers daily. The car was trying avoid some sandbags that were placed on the street when the front left side of the vehicle collided with the bus' right side.
When Google's cars are undergoing open-road testing there is always a human driver present in the vehicle to intervene if the system malfunctions. In this case the driver believed that the bus would yield and let his vehicle go first.
Since the start of Google's self-driving cars project there have been a total of 14 accidents. This latest one stands out because it did not happen as a result of another driver on the road. However as both vehicles received only minor cosmetic damage there may never be a formal determination of liability.