Rival self-driving cars have avoided a collision on the streets of Palo Alto. While some reports are referring to the incident as a near miss, one maker says the cars did exactly what they are supposed to do.
The news was broken by Reuters, which spoke to John Absmeier, the man heading up Delphi Automotive’s test program in Silicon Valley. He was a passenger in a self-driving Audi Q5 being tested under California laws that allow such tests on public roads, albeit under strict regulations. At least one “passenger” must be sat at the wheel with the ability to take over in an emergency.
Absmeier said the Q5 was attempting to change lanes when it detected the presence of a self-driving Lexus RX400h produced by Google. The Q5 then aborted its lane change to avoid a collision, with no human intervention required.
Both cars were running similar technology, at least in hardware terms, with cameras, lasers and radar all used to assess road conditions and potential hazards.
According to Absmeier, it’s inaccurate to describe the incident as a “near miss.” The aborted lane change was normal operating procedure and worked in exactly the same way as if a human-operated car had been coming into the space.
There’s no word yet from Google about whether its vehicle took any action in relation to the Q5. In theory it shouldn’t have as the onus is presumably on the “driver” planning a lane change to check there’s an adequate space.
Google has recently released details of some of its testing. It says that during the entire program its vehicles have been involved in 12 minor collisions with human-operated vehicles. Most of these were cases of the Google car being rear-ended after slowing or stopping and California’s Department of Motor Vehicles backs Google’s assertion that its cars were not responsible for the collision on any occasion.
On one occasion the Google vehicle rear-ended another car, though that was a case where a Google employee was using the vehicle for transportation and did not have the self-driving mode switched on.