The autonomous vehicles of the future are already (sorta) here, and it won’t be long before you start seeing them on a street near you. Safety is, of course, a huge concern when it comes to cars without drivers, and the ability of AI-powered vehicles to avoid accidents has been called into question countless times. The debut of a self-driving shuttle bus in Las Vegas this week probably isn’t going to ease anyone’s fears, as it managed to get into an accident just hours after it was put into operation.
The accident, as was reported by KSNV, involved the self-driving shuttle and a semi truck. It was a minor collision, and the human driver of the semi truck was actually the one at fault, but the shuttle was still unable to avoid the accident, and that’s not going to gain the self-driving shuttle many votes of confidence.
“Truck making delivery backed into shuttle, which was stopped,” a spokesperson for AAA, which is sponsoring the shuttle’s free operations in Las Vegas, explained on Twitter. “Human error causes most traffic collisions and this was no different. Driver of truck was cited. No one hurt except a bruised bumper!”
The city of Las Vegas took the accident in stride, and even went so far as to suggest that if the semi had also been autonomous, the accident probably wouldn’t have happened at all. “The autonomous shuttle was testing today when it was grazed by a delivery truck downtown,” a statement from the city reads. “The shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that it’s sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident. Unfortunately the delivery truck did not stop and grazed the front fender of the shuttle. Had the truck had the same sensing equipment that the shuttle has the accident would have been avoided.”
It’s hard to say if the result would have been different had the shuttle been piloted by a human driver. Could the accident have been avoided if a human driver had noticed the truck wasn’t stopping? Perhaps a human would have smashed the horn or quickly threw the shuttle into reverse in order to avoid the bump? Nobody can say for certain, but the shuttle is undergoing minor maintenance and will resume service in the coming days.