Google's self-driving car in accident; user error blamed

Autonomous car was in manual mode when the incident occurred

Google's self-driving car program hit something of a bump in the road last week when the car was involved in an accident.

While the car was designed to be autonomous, someone was actually driving it in manual mode when it was in an accident near Google's Mountain View, Calif. campus. No one was injured.

"We regret that a Google driver recently caused a minor accident, and we're grateful that no one was hurt," a Google spokesperson told Computerworld in an email. "Safety is our top priority. One of our goals is to prevent fender-benders like this one, which occurred while a person was manually driving the car."

The auto blog Jalopnik posted a picture of what it says was the scene of the accident.

In the fall of 2010, Google announced that it had begun developing technology that would enable automobiles to drive themselves. The company noted at the time that its autonomous cars already had driven more than 140,000 miles.

The cars are given video cameras, radar sensors, a laser range finder and mapping technology to sense other cars around them, as well as traffic flow. The mapping technology also navigates the roadways.

Google has noted that the cars always have a trained "safety driver" when they're maneuvering on the road.

In June, the state of Nevada passed a bill that calls for government executives to begin creating rules of the road for self-driving cars.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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