One of Google's self-driving vehicles sustained significant damage Friday, Sept. 23, after it met an accident while traversing the city streets in Mountain View.
The company has already confirmed the incident and promptly issued an official response, which included an admission that the car was indeed in control or under self-driving mode. The event could prove significant because it will effectively become the first case where the car has been severely damaged.
Accounts from witnesses revealed that the automated vehicle was a Lexus sedan that was hit by a commercial van after its driver took the red light. The van crashed into the vehicle's passenger side.
Fortunately, no one appeared to be hurt in the incident. According to the police, there was a passenger inside the automated vehicle when the crash occured. A separate report indicated that this passenger took control of the car when collision was imminent and attempted to apply the brakes. The Google employee was reportedly visibly shaken as he was awaiting tow service.
It is important to note that the Google's self-driving vehicle was not at fault. It supports the dominant narrative that the accidents for self-driving cars today, particularly those involving Google's automated vehicles, are mostly caused by humans. This is also true in the case of vehicular accidents in general.
"Thousands of crashes happen every day on U.S. roads, and red-light running is the leading cause of urban crashes in the U.S.," Google said in an official statement. "Human error plays a role in 94% of these crashes, which is why we're developing fully self-driving technology to take human error out of the equation, and make our roads safer."
So far, there is only one case where a Google automated vehicle is partially at fault and this happened when a self-driving Lexus struck a transit bus early this year.
Safety has been a critical issue for self-driving car technologies today. Tesla, for example, has been embroiled in a controversy these past few months over concerns that its Autopilot technology is not safe for its passengers.
The public, however, can rely on Google to disclose all the details regarding its self-driving car technology. It publishes a monthly report that outlines the progress and developments of its automated vehicles. In April, for example, it disclosed a side mirror damage that a stationary vehicle sustained after being hit by a passing car.
"[When the Google car] stopped in order to yield to traffic approaching from the left on San Antonio Road, a vehicle approaching at approximately 9 mph from behind the prototype collided with the rear bumper of the prototype vehicle," Google dutifully reported.