Oops: Self-Driving Bus Crashes Two Hours After Vegas Launch

A self-driving Navya Arma bus shuttle in Paris. A similar vehicle was involved in a minor accident with a delivery truck in Las Vegas last week. Jacques Demarthon  AFP

The autonomous vehicle was at a standstill when it was struck by a delivery truck going in reverse.

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. This pilot builds on Keolis' limited shuttle launch in downtown Las Vegas in early 2017; today's launch will be the first self-driving vehicle to be fully integrated with a city's traffic infrastructure.

Jenny Wong, a passenger on the shuttle at the time of the crash, told local news station KSNV: "The shuttle just stayed still".

No injuries were reported and the shuttle is expected to quickly return to service. The experimental shuttle bus had predicted that an accident was about to happen, and according to it algorithmic protocols, stopped. It was dinged by a tractor-trailer as the truck attempted to back into an alley to make a delivery.

Speaking to the BBC, Las Vegas public information officer Jace Radke said: "The shuttle did what it was supposed to do and stopped".

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The only damage of significance has been to the front bumper of the shuttle bus. The Tesla Model S, which was steering itself, slammed into the side of a truck in Florida in 2016, killing the driver. The driver of the truck was cited by Metro. Had the truck had the same sensing equipment that the shuttle has the accident would have been avoided. 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.

"We had about 20 feet of empty street behind us (I looked) and most human drivers would have thrown the vehicle into reverse and used some of that space to get away from the truck", Zurschmeide wrote.

The Automobile Association of America (AAA) of Southern Nevada, which is one of the sponsors of the shuttle, has expressed its willingness to working with the NTSB in order to help further the investigation. "And a horn for the attendant would be a good feature, too", he said. The agency has already investigated numerous other crashes involving self-driving cars, all of which were found to be the result of human error in at least some capacity.

"The shuttle didn't have the ability to move back".

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