An example of how self driving cars are better drivers than us..

By Joey Merkin

While there have been numerous reports about various accidents called by self driving cars in the last few years, the tables might be starting to turn.

A few days ago, Waymo reported a crash involving one of its self driving test vehicles and a motorcycle. However, unlike most self driving car accidents, the company claims that the human test driver was actually at fault for this crash.

In the statement they released, Waymo said that a car to the left of them began moving into their car’s lane. To avoid a potential accident with this car, the human driver swerved the Waymo vehicle into the right lane without noticing a motorcycle had appeared in that lane. This motorcyclist apparently was behind the Waymo car but decided to pass the Waymo vehicle right as the test driver made their impromptu lane change. The motorcyclist unfortunately had to be sent to the hospital while the Waymo vehicle sustained minor damage.

Waymo also said that these types of accidents are exactly what their technology is designed to avoid. With their LiDAR enabling them to see in 360 directions and simultaneously tracking all all nearby vehicles, their technology would have known not to swerve into the path of the passing motorcycle. To prove this, they even ran a simulation recreating the accident and found that if the human test driver did not intervene, the Waymo vehicle would have slowed down and avoided both the merging car and the motorcycle.

While it seems easy to sit back and let the car make the calculated driving decision that it is programmed to do, it sure is not easy to let a computer make potentially life-threatening decisions with your life at stake, especially while this technology is still not perfect and the trust in self driving vehicles is not too high. However, this incident does bring up an interesting topic of thought: the intervenience of human drivers who might not be fully aware of their surroundings yet use their judgement to take control of their vehicle. While we still think we may be able to drive better than a computer, if a driver attempts to take control after not paying the same amount of attention as if they were driving themselves, it can be potentially dangerous as this event demonstrates.