Driverless Bus Crashes Shortly After Launch in Las Vegas
A self-driving shuttle bus crashed less than two hours after it was launched in Las Vegas this week. According to news reports, city officials had hosted an unveiling ceremony for the bus, described as the country’s first driverless shuttle bus. Within two hours, the bus crashed with a semi-truck. The human driver of the other vehicle was determined to have been at fault. There were no injuries. The oval-shaped bus sponsored by AAA can transport up to 12 passengers at a time. It has an attendant and a computer monitor and uses GPS and electric curb sensors instead of brake pedals or a steering wheel.
Crashes Involving Driverless Cars
This crash comes in the wake of the U.S. House of Representatives passing the Self Drive Act in September. If this law is passed by the Senate, it would essentially exempt automakers from a number of state and federal regulations allowing for the eventual deployment of up to 100,000 driverless test vehicles each year. Under the law, states would still decide whether or not to permit driverless cars on their roads. But, the federal government could permit a car manufacturer to bypass certain safety rules as well.
The shuttle bus accident in Las Vegas is not the first time self-driving vehicles have been involved in crashes. In March, Uber stopped its tests of driverless vehicles in the U.S. following a crash in Arizona. In California early last year, Google’s self-driving car was found to be at fault when it struck a public bus. The company said it would improve software for the vehicles to more accurately differentiate larger vehicles such as buses. Google’s self-driving car unit, Waymo, also recently patented to make vehicles softer as part of its efforts to reduce collision-related injuries. Tesla’s Autopilot feature was engaged when the driver of a 2015 Model S was killed in an accident in Florida.
The Issues of Safety and Responsibility
Automakers around the world from General Motors to Volvo are still investing in driverless cars. It’s not a matter of if but when these vehicles begin to grace our roadways. That time isn’t too far. But these crashes are warning signs that automakers and tech companies that are jumping on the driverless bandwagon must do their due diligence to ensure safety for consumers. This is not the time the circumvent safety regulations or cut corners. It’s also unacceptable to use consumers as guinea pigs to test their self-driving cars. Innovation must be done, but responsibly.