Google Self-Driving Car In Fender-Bender With VTA Bus

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A self-driving Google SUV and a Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority bus with a human at the controls smacked into each other on Valentine’s Day in Mountain View, according to a report released Monday by the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

No one was injured in the collision, the report said, though each vehicle suffered some damage. The crash was apparently deemed minor enough that the Mountain View Police Department did not respond, and fault was not assigned.

While Google’s autonomous vehicle researchers are sure to learn some lessons from the crash, the company did not respond Monday to requests for comment.

The Google vehicle, a Lexus SUV, had an operator behind the wheel as mandated by state law. But it was in autonomous mode as it headed east on El Camino Real in the right lane approaching the Castro Street intersection at about 3:20 p.m. on Feb. 14.

The SUV signaled its intent to turn right and moved to the far right to pass traffic heading straight in the same lane, said the DMV report signed by Chris Urmson, director of Google’s autonomous vehicle program.

When the self-driving vehicle detected sandbags around a storm drain blocking the way, it stopped. When the light turned green, it let a few cars pass, then pulled into the center of the lane, the report said.

The test driver related that he saw the bus approaching, but believed it would stop or slow for the SUV. Three seconds later the bus, traveling at about 15 mph, struck the SUV — which was still operating in self-driving mode — at less than 2 mph, the report said.

None of the 15 passengers aboard the New Flyer articulated bus on the 22 route was injured, and VTA sent along another bus to pick them, said agency spokeswoman Stacey Hendler Ross. The person in the SUV was also uninjured.

The report said the Google car suffered damage to its left front fender and wheel as well as one of its driver’s side sensors. The VTA bus had minor damage.

State law requires operators testing autonomous vehicles to notify the DMV within 10 days of any collision. Since Oct. 14, 2014, 12 autonomous vehicle crashes have been reported — 10 involving Google cars.

Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit group that’s skeptical of self-driving cars, seized on the wreck to reiterate its call for police to investigate all self-driving vehicle crashes, with Google and other companies forced to release any on-board technical data and video related to an incident.

“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,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director.

Michael Cabanatuan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ctuan

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