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March 15, 2016

Google Patent Will Help Ensure Automated Cars Steer Clear of Buses

Google's self-driving car prototype.

Google is taking steps to ensure its self-driving car doesn’t get into another embarrassing fender bender.

The autonomous Lexus RX450h SUV crashed into a public bus last month while out for a test drive in Mountain View, California. The car was attempting a lane change when the incident occurred.

Since that time, Google has performed more than 3,500 tests to ensure no such accident happens again, said director of Google’s self-driving car unit Chris Urmson, according to a Re/code article.

Google has also been awarded a patent it filed for in 2014 entitled “Bus Detection for an Autonomous Vehicle” to move forward with its plans to install image recognition technology in its robot cars. The technology will allow the cars to identify buses by size and color in order to avoid future accidents.

Google's newest patent will help ensure its automated car steers clear of buses.

Google’s newest patent will help ensure its automated car steers clear of buses.

Specifically, the technology focuses on ensuring the Google car never hits a school bus. In the past, the company has prioritized the safety of children around its vehicle, so this latest step is not surprising.

Google admitted it was at fault for the accident, saying in a statement the car’s human test driver didn’t stop the vehicle from pulling out in front of the bus because he predicted there was enough time for it to merge.

The robotic vehicles have logged millions of miles on and off the highway, but this is the first collision in which Google was at fault. In total the car has had 18 accidents.

US transport secretary Anthony Foxx says he’s not shocked by the incident, pointing out that millions of accidents are caused by human drivers each day.

“It’s not a surprise that at some point there would be a crash of any technology that’s on the road,” Foxx said in a report by The Gaurdian. “But I would challenge one to look at the number of crashes that occurred in the same day that were the result of human behaviour.”

Google tends to agree with Foxx, pointing out that the crash was the result of the vehicle, test driver and bus driver all trying to decipher what the other vehicle was going to do.

“This is a classic example of the negotiation that’s a normal part of driving – we’re all trying to predict each other’s movements,” Google said in a statement.

“In this case, we clearly bear some responsibility, because if our car hadn’t moved there wouldn’t have been a collision.”


Megan Abraham is a staff writer for SiteProNews.