Human to blame, not the autonomous vehicle.

A driverless electric airport shuttle bus that made its debut downtown Las Vegas was involved in a traffic accident just a few short hours after entering into service. Ironically, it seems that the human driver of the other vehicle involved was to blame, and not the bus.  

The crash happened at low speed, and none of the eight passengers aboard the driver-less vehicle suffered injuries, and neither did the truck driver responsible for the collision.

Self-driving shuttle bus in crash on first day in Las Vegas

The vehicle – carrying “several” passengers – was hit by a lorry driving at slow speed.

The only damage of significance has been to the front bumper of the shuttle bus.  AAA, which is sponsoring the latest pilot program, confirmed on Twitter that the accident was due to “human error” on the part of the truck driver. 

“A delivery truck was coming out of an alley,” public information officer Jace Radke said. “The shuttle did what it was supposed to do and stopped. Unfortunately, the human element, the driver of the truck, didn’t stop.”

First of its kind

Speaking to the BBC, a spokesman for the City of Las Vegas said the crash was nothing more than a minor “fender bender” and that the shuttle would more than likely be back out on the road on Thursday, after the mainly cosmetic damage was repaired after some routine diagnostics tests. 

According to Jenny Wong, a passenger on the shuttle at the time of the crash, told local news station KSNV: “The shuttle just stayed still. And we were like, it’s going to hit us, it’s going to hit us. And then it hit us.” 

“The shuttle didn’t have the ability to move back. The shuttle just stayed still.” And in that respect, the bus did exactly what it was supposed to do. Taking corrective action either by swerving is not something the bus has been thus far been approved to do. The experimental shuttle bus had predicted that an accident was about to happen, and according to it algorithmic protocols, stopped.  

Tickets please

The Metropolitan Police Department said officers responded at 12.07 pm to an accident involving the shuttle and a delivery truck on the 100 block of South Sixth Street, near Fremont Street. Damage was minor, and no one was hurt, police said. The driver of the truck did however receive a ticket for not stopping. 

Vegas officials were bullish in their response to questions about the overall safety of AI-driven vehicles on public roads. The year-long pilot project, sponsored by AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah, is expected to carry 250,000 people. 

Human error

Self-driving technology has been involved in crashes before, but almost all reported incidents have been due to human error. 

The AAA said human error was responsible for more than 90% of the 30,000 deaths on US roads in 2016, and that robotic cars could help reduce the number of incidents. 

The bus was developed by French company Navya and uses GPS, electronic kerb sensors and other technology to find its way along Vegas streets with a strict 15mph limit. The oval-shaped shuttle can seat up to eight people and has an attendant and computer monitor, but no steering wheel or brake pedals.