Safety board probes truck collision with self-driving shuttle in Las Vegas

13 November, 2017, 02:55 | Author: Terri Saunders
  • NTSB to Investigate Crash of Self-Driving Shuttle

Although it wasn't a major crash, the incident made headlines because it occurred just a few hours into the shuttle's first day of service.

The vehicle - carrying "several" passengers - was hit by a lorry driving at slow speed. City spokesman Jace Radke said the shuttle took two more loops after the crash. "Unfortunately, the human element, the driver of the truck, didn't stop".

While the truck driver was cited, the incident shows how autonomous cars can struggle to anticipate the non-verbal communication that goes on between human drivers on the road every day, said Duke University robotics professor Missy Cummings. And then it hit us.

"Automated shuttles have the ability to reduce operational expenditures by lowering per mile costs, reducing labor expenditures, and offering a variety of flexible and on-demand public transportation services when paired with advanced algorithms and smartphone apps", Susan Shaheen, a civil engineer who studies mobility innovation at UC Berkeley, told Wired.

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"The shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that its sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident", the city posted on the online platform Tumblr. Taking corrective action either by swerving is not something the bus has been thus far been approved to do. The key line in this is "if the delivery truck had the same sensing equipment. the accident would have been avoided".

The cause of the collision is known - a semi truck backed into the stopped shuttle in an intersection. Damage was minor, and no one was hurt, police said. Even though the vehicle could be used for extended periods without human intervention, it was not created to stop if a truck was crossing in front of it, the agency's report concluded.

AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah (AAA) is sponsoring the nation's first self-driving shuttle pilot project geared specifically for the public. "This is one of the most advanced pieces of technology on the planet, and it's just now learning how to interact with humans and human driving".

The AAA said human error was responsible for more than 90% of the 30,000 deaths on United States roads in 2016, and that robotic cars could help reduce the number of incidents. Developed by French company Navya, it uses Global Positioning System, electronic kerb sensors and other technology to find its way at no more than 15mph. The oval-shaped shuttle can seat up to eight people and has an attendant and computer monitor, but no steering wheel or brake pedals.

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