Tech companies might insist self driving technology is right around the corner, but self driving cars that run on real roads are probably some way away.
Las Vegas’s historic self driving shuttle was launched yesterday amid much fanfare, but within the first hour, the shuttle ended up colliding with a truck. Footage showed the blue shuttle having rammed into a large truck side on, with police and emergency personnel on the scene. None of the eight passengers on board the shuttle were injured.
— KSNV News 3 (@News3LV) November 8, 2017
This is hardly the best advertisement self driving technology would’ve hoped for — one of the aims of the project was to change the negative perceptions the general public might have about autonomous vehicles. The city of Las Vegas had partnered with French startup Navya and private transportation company Keolis to launch the shuttles, which operate on a 1 kilometer loop around downtown Las Vegas. The shuttles had “Look ma, no hands” emblazoned across the back windshield, and offered free rides to residents.
The Las Vegas government says not much could’ve happened even if the shuttle had been using human hands — the accident was apparently the fault of the truck driver. “The autonomous shuttle was testing today when it was grazed by a delivery truck downtown. The shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that it’s sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident. Unfortunately the delivery truck did not stop and grazed the front fender of the shuttle,” Las Vegas authorities said. The shuttle service was suspended for the day, but will continue to run over the next twelve months as a part of its scheduled pilot.
The Las Vegas authorities said the accident could’ve been avoided had the truck also been running on self driving technology, but the incident will serve as a reminder that self driving cars have some way to go before they’re fully roadworthy. Worse, accidents involving self driving vehicles, whether a result of technical or human error, will continue to make headlines, and make the general public and governments wary of adopting the technology in a big way. Which means we’re in for an eventful few years of testing as self driving vehicles gingerly make their way on to public roads.