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Human Driver Blamed For Autonomous Car Accident Involving Motorcyclist

Accident / 3 Comments

Leaving the car in autonomous mode would have prevented the collision according to Waymo.

Ever since the fatal crash in which an autonomous Uber taxi killed a pedestrian in Arizona, self-driving technology has come under increased scrutiny. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, another accident involving a self-driving prototype car happened last month when an autonomous Chrysler Pacifica was hit by a motorcyclist. The accident happened near Waymo's headquarters in Mountain View, California, but Waymo is blaming the human backup driver who was in control of the vehicle when the collision happened.

According to an accident report filed with the DMV, the Chrysler Pacifica prototype was driving at 21 mph in the middle of a three-lane road when a car in the left lane began to merge into the middle lane. Taking evasive action, the human back up driver instinctively regained manual control of the car, disabled the self-driving systems, and began changing lanes to avoid the other car. At the same time, a motorcycle travelling at 28 mph started to overtake the prototype Pacifica and hit the minivan's rear bumper. The motorcyclist was injured in the accident and transported to a hospital.

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Waymo claims the accident could have been avoided if the vehicle was left in autonomous mode. During software simulations run by the technology company after the accident, Waymo discovered the vehicle would have automatically slowed down to avoid the car merging into the lane and prevent the collision.

Waymo's chief executive John Krafcik also said that while humans can make "a split-second decision with insufficient context," the car had a 360-degree view of its environment. "Our self-driving system was simultaneously tracking the position, direction and speed of every object around it," he wrote in a blog post. "Crucially, our technology correctly anticipated and predicted the future behavior of both the merging vehicle and the motorcyclist."