Apple’s self-driving cars have reached a new milestone. Sadly, it pertains to one of those vehicles being involved in an accident. According to a report filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, one of Apple’s self-driving cars was rear-ended by a Nissan Leaf while it was attempting to merge with traffic.
The report indicates that the accident, which occurred at about 3 p.m. on August 24, was not the fault of Apple’s car. The self-driving car, which is a modified Lexus RX450h, was traveling at a speed of less than a mile-per-hour while it was attempting to merge onto the highway. The accident occurred when it was rear-ended by a Nissan Leaf, which was going about 15 miles-per-hour. The report indicates that the cars sustained moderate damage, but no injuries were reported.
As is often the case in accidents involving self-driving cars, the wreck appears to be the fault of the human driver rather than Apple’s car. Interestingly enough, many of these accidents involve self-driving cars being rear-ended by human drivers. When speaking to Consumer Reports, Phil Koopman, a software engineer at Carnegie Mellon, suggested that part of the reason for the accidents may be that the autonomous cars do a poor job imitating human drivers.
Of course, not all of the accidents can be blamed on human error. In 2016, Google admitted that it bore some responsibility for a crash that involved one of its self-driving cars. Google’s self-driving division has since split off to form Waymo, which is a separate company under Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company,
Regardless of whether the accidents can be pinned on human error or malfunction robots, they do call into question some of the hype surrounding self-driving cars. Several companies are optimistic that we will see autonomous cars on the roads within the next few years, but Koopman said he is not so sure.
“I think that people are being very optimistic about how long we’ll have to get to something to where the human does not have to pay attention,” Koopman told Consumer Reports. “It’s new technology. It’s immature technology. We’re still figuring out how to make it work. We’re in a hype cycle.”