Google driverless car causes five-car crash

A Google driverless Toyota Prius allegedly caused a five-car collision - but is the search giant to blame?
Written by Matt Weinberger, Contributor

It seems that one of Google's self-driving cars caused a five-car crash right near the search giant's Mountain View Googleplex headquarters. Is it going to be a roadblock for the Google driverless car program?

Let's be clear: we now know that there was a human behind the wheel of the Google-customized Toyota Prius which allegedly instigated in the incident - at least, that's what Google's claiming. Originally, car blog Jalopnik, which broke the story when a tipster came forward with photos, wasn't sure who was driving when the accident occurred.

And without access to an official accident report, we may never know for sure - and Google's not going to be releasing that anytime soon.

But NBC San Francisco followed up and got a witness report:

Google's Prius struck another Prius, which then struck her Honda Accord that her brother was driving. That Accord then struck another Honda Accord, and the second Accord hit a separate, non-Google-owned Prius.

Meanwhile, Business Insider got an official response from Google:

"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."

If a person was driving the car, then this is a non-issue. And again, without any kind of official documentation, we don't know if Google's being straight with us on this one. But one of the things that opened the way for Nevada to begin the process of licensing Google's driverless cars was the fact that they had an impeccable safety record - even with 140,000 miles driven in testing.

And this incident raises other interesting questions, regardless of whether it was Google or a human at the wheel: if a driverless car gets into an accident, is it considered negligence on the part of the person in the front seat? After all, you can't give a computer a court summons, and having the car drive itself is a pretty solid impetus for taking your eyes off the road.

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