Safety board probes truck collision with self-driving shuttle in Las Vegas

Gladys Abbott
November 12, 2017

The robots won this one.

Federal transportation safety officials headed to Las Vegas on Friday to investigate a collision this week between a self-driving shuttle bus on its first day of service and a truck, which was blamed on human error. But a reporter who was riding on the public shuttle covering its first day on the job had an interesting take: The autonomous vehicle didn't necessarily do everything a human driver might have.

The shuttle was hit by a truck, the City of Las Vegas said in a blog post, after the truck's (human) driver failed to stop in time.

"The shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that its sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident", the city said in a statement.

According to Engadget, the service was set for a year-long trial, but ran into a delivery truck in the first hour when the human driver of the truck backed into the bus' bumper.

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According to a report, the bus "has an attendant and a computer monitor, and uses Global Positioning System and electric curb sensors instead of brake pedals or a steering wheel". It uses Global Positioning System, electronic curb sensors and other technology to make its way.

Despite the incident, the self-driving shuttle was back on its route within 24 hours, and supporters of the technology believe that there is still ample evidence to suggest that autonomous vehicles are the future of public transportation.

It can carry up to eight passengers and is operating a free hop-on, hop-off service on a 0.6 mile (1km) loop in the city's Innovation district.

It was a minor collision - in fact, collision or crash actually seem hyperbolic, what actually happened was the shuttle bus got a dent in its fender - but as the story went viral on social media it was enough for skeptics of automation to say, "See?" The shuttle has multiple sponsors other than the city of Las Vegas, including AAA of Southern Nevada, Keolis North America, and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada. Its vice president of mobility solutions, Maurice Bell, said the bus will scoot through Las Vegas at no more than 15 miles per hour. She said the drive was so smooth that she couldn't even tell she was in a vehicle, but approaching the intersection made her a little nervous.

We've already seen the first fatal crash involving a self-driving auto, but the Navya bus isn't traveling long distances or operating on highways-it only goes about 15 MPH and runs on a route about 0.6 miles long.

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