On March 18, a female bicyclist was killed when she crossed the road in Tempe, Arizona. A self-driving car from Uber failed to avoid her, and she was struck by the vehicle. I covered this incident in the post Self-Driving Cars Must Be Banned Now!. A week ago, on May 4, another self-driving car was involved in a car crash in Arizona. This time, the incident happened in Chandler, and the autonomous car was not operated by Uber, but by Waymo.
Three cars were involved in the Chandler incident. The driver of the first car jumped a red light, and had to swerve to avoid the second car, which was moving into the intersection on a green light. That maneuver propelled it in to the oncoming lane, where it hit the third car, a self-driving van from Waymo. Here’s a video released by the company, showing how the incident was captured by the cameras attached to the Waymo.
I’d like to see the driver being able to avoid being hit in that situation. Except for teleportation, there is no way to avoid the swerving car. This crash is clearly not caused by the Waymo vehicle, but the story ran in the local news as “Self-driving car crash in Arizona: Waymo involved in Chandler crash”1.
The Waymo van was in autonomous mode with an occupant behind the wheel at the time of the crash. In lieu of the recent Uber incident, of course this story runs as “self-driving vehicle causes mayhem” in disreputable news outlets across the globe. It’s this kind of click-bait dumbfuckery2 that makes people uneasy, and skeptical about self-driving cars. Sure, some of the articles will state that the Waymo vehicle didn’t cause the crash. But many people just read the headline, make up the rest of the story in their mind, and move on. Another self-driving car almost killed someone!
Have you ever seen a news article about a self-driving car avoiding a dangerous situation, potentially saving lives? Neither I have. And that’s not because it never happened, it’s because it’s not the kind of article that people click on.
Self-drive to Safety
I’d argue that if all the three cars were self-driving, this incident had never happened. It was caused by because an idiot driver jumping a red light. A self-driving car would not do that, it would respect the red light. Perhaps the crash could even have been avoided if the car driving into the intersection on a green light had been autonomous. Depending on its sensor package, it might have spotted the vehicle jumping the red light, and remained stationary until it was no longer a hazard.
The Chandler crash is not an argument against autonomous vehicles. Quite the opposite. It’s a prime example of why every single car on the planet should be self-driving, thus removing the cause of the majority of car crashes: The human driver.