A van in Mountain View, California, ran a red light yesterday and t-boned a Google self-driving car, resulting in what news outlets are calling, “one of the worst accidents in the history of the Google self-driving car program”.
To be clear, Google’s self-driving car was the victim — the human driver of the other vehicle was 100% at-fault.
A website called 9to5google.com has the best reporting I’ve seen, including a statement from Google:
A Google vehicle was traveling northbound on Phyllis Ave. in Mountain View when a car heading westbound on El Camino Real ran a red light and collided with the right side of our vehicle. Our light was green for at least six seconds before our car entered the intersection. Thousands of crashes happen everyday on U.S. roads, and red-light running is the leading cause of urban crashes in the U.S. Human error plays a role in 94% of these crashes, which is why we’re developing fully self-driving technology to make our roads safer.
This is just another reminder that however sexy and interesting the Trolley problem might be, it’s irrelevant, at least in the short-term. The immediate, real problem is that we humans are terrible drivers.