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Google self-driving car bears 'some responsibility' in accident for first time ever

Though Google's automated vehicles have been involved in a handful of minor accidents on the road, those were all caused entirely by other, human drivers. But that changed with an accident in California earlier this month.




The incident was revealed in documents filed with the California Department of Motor Vehiclesm unearthed by by Re/code on Monday. They reveal that a self-driving Lexus RX450h hit a municipal bus in Mountain View.

The DMV's accident report states that the self-driving Lexus was attempting to merge back into traffic and avoid some sandbags on the road in front of a storm drain. The Google-controlled vehicle apparently saw the bus in its rear view mirror and assumed it would stop or slow down, but instead, it kept going.

In all, it was a low-speed accident: Google's vehicle was moving at just 2 miles per hour, while the city bus was traveling at 15 miles per hour. There were no injuries, and the report only made mention of damage sustained by Google's car.

After news of the crash surfaced online, Google offered its own account of the accident, saying that similar incidents happen "between human drivers on the road every day."

"This is a classic example of the negotiation that's a normal part of driving — we're all trying to predict each other's movements," the company said. "In this case, we clearly bear some responsibility, because if our car hadn't moved there wouldn't have been a collision. That said, our test driver believed the bust was going to slow or stop to allow us to merge into the traffic, and that there would be sufficient space to do that."




On public roads, Google's self-driving cars were previously known to have been involved in 17 different accidents. But in each of those incidents, human drivers were said to be at fault, making the Feb. 14 incident the first time Google's vehicle can shoulder some of the blame.

While Google's autonomous vehicle efforts are out in the open, Apple's own "Project Titan" is a secret development said to be underway not far from the company's corporate headquarters. AppleInsider's own sources and research have indicated that the bulk of this development is underway in a series of buildings in the city of Sunnyvale.

Specifically, Project Titan is said to be based out of a building known internally as "SG5." It's there that a company by the name of SixtyEight Research has been operating, prompting speculation that it could be a shell corporation used by Apple to fly under the radar.

Reports have suggested that Apple is hoping to put its own vehicle on the road by 2019, but that the first-generation model won't be a self-driving car. Autonomous capabilities are said to be a more ambitious, longer-term goal for Apple — something that could be difficult and potentially dangerous to implement, as evidenced by Google's accident in Mountain View.