A driverless shuttle set free in downtown Las Vegas was involved in a minor accident less than an hour after it hit the streets, reported the local NBC affiliate KSNV. Not really the kind of publicity you want, or that self-driving cars need.
The shuttle, an egglike 8-seater Navya, is operated by the AAA and Keolis. It was a test deployment along half a mile of the Fremont East “Innovation District,” so this thing wasn’t cruising the strip. Probably a good thing.
Now, it must be said that technically the robo-car was not at fault. It was struck by a semi that was backing up, and really just grazed — none of the passengers was hurt.
Like any functioning autonomous vehicle, the shuttle can avoid obstacles and stop in a hurry if needed. What it apparently can’t do is move a couple feet out of the way when it looks like a 20-ton truck is going to back into it.
A passenger interviewed by KSNV shared her frustration:
The shuttle just stayed still and we were like, ‘oh my gosh, it’s gonna hit us, it’s gonna hit us!’ and then.. it hit us! And the shuttle didn’t have the ability to move back, either. Like, the shuttle just stayed still.
Surely this situation is not so rare that the shuttle’s designers did not allow for it? Moving the car out of the way of an oncoming vehicle seems like a pretty elementary safety measure.
A City of Las Vegas representative issued a statement that the shuttle “did what it was supposed to do, in that its sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident.” It also claims, lamely, that “Had the truck had the same sensing equipment that the shuttle has the accident would have been avoided.”
Not if it failed to react properly, as arguably was the case with the shuttle. Testing will continue, but I have to say I wouldn’t get on this thing until they demonstrate that it can do more than just stop.