SUNNYVALE (KPIX 5) – One of Apple’s self-driving cars was rear-ended on the freeway. It’s Apple’s first self-driving vehicle crash, but experts say many autonomous car operators are reporting similar accidents.
Cars going at least 50 miles per hour whiz down Lawrence Expressway in Sunnyvale, a testing area for Apple’s self-driving Lexus SUVs.
According to a DMV accident report, the autonomous vehicle was trying to merge from Kifer Road onto southbound Lawrence Expressway when it was rear-ended by an another car with a human behind the wheel.
“The Apple car doesn’t seem to have done anything wrong,” said Phil Koopman, a world renowned safety expert on self-driving cars.
Koopman said the most common accidents involving autonomous vehicles are rear-end crashes.
“These self-driving cars are designed to be very cautious,” he said. In this case, Koopman believes the Apple SUV was perhaps too cautious.
The DMV report said the Apple SUV was only going one mile per hour as it was attempting to merge onto Lawrence Expressway. The car that rear-ended it was going 15 miles per hour.
“The issue is whether the other drivers are expecting them to behave that way,” said Koopman. “A lot of humans are kind of aggressive and they’re a little bit surprised when the other car is a little bit more cautious than they would be.”
According to the DMV accident report, both vehicles received moderate damage in the crash, but no one was seriously hurt.
In 2017, California’s self-driving cars were involved in 19 crashes. In most cases the autonomous car was not at fault.
“What we’re going to see is that humans will have to get used to the autonomous cars, just like the autonomous cars have to get used to the humans,” said Koopman.
He stresses the cars are still in the testing phase which is why they are all required to have a person behind the wheel, just in case.
“It’s technology that’s still being matured, and it doesn’t hurt to give it a little extra space while it’s learning how to drive,” said Koopman.