DMV: Tesla collided into Google robot car

In a true clash of the Silicon Valley titans, a Tesla Model S crashed into Google’s self-driving SUV this summer, according to data released this week by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Google publicly revealed most of the details of the collision in early September, but didn’t mention — except to the DMV — that it was rear-ended by a Tesla.

The DMV late on Thursday began publishing on its website the reports on all collisions involving autonomous vehicles in the state since new road test rules took effect a year ago. There have been nine crashes — eight involving Google, which has far more vehicles on the road than any other company, and one with auto parts maker Delphi. All have been blamed on human drivers. All of Google’s fender-benders happened in its hometown of Mountain View, and Delphi’s happened just across the border in Palo Alto.

The Tesla-Google crash happened just after 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 20 at the corner of Shoreline Boulevard and High School Way in Mountain View, according to the report sent to the DMV by Chris Urmson, who heads Google’s self-driving car project.

Google said its Lexus RX450h, which is outfitted with self-driving software, had paused as a pedestrian began walking into the crosswalk, and out of “an abundance of caution” its test driver took control of the vehicle. The human-driven Tesla was moving 10 miles per hour and had just crossed a lane when it rear-ended Google’s vehicle, resulting in the Google driver having to go to the hospital to check on minor back pain.

Not sure what this says — if anything — about the behaviors of robot cars, but a Berkeley study several years ago did find that the humans who drive luxury cars are four times more likely to cut off other vehicles at a busy four-way intersection, and three times more likely to cut off a pedestrian waiting to enter a crosswalk:

Teslas, of course, are the cars favored by Silicon Valley’s tech elite including many of Google’s executives. Google’s self-driving vehicles have also been hit by a BMW (in April) and a new Audi S6 (in February), along with plenty of ordinary models, according to the DMV’s newly published reports. As Urmson asserted in June: “The clear theme is human error and inattention.”

Above: One of Google’s self-driving SUVs, such as the one shown here, was rear-ended by a human-driver 2013 Tesla Model S in the last California collision involving an autonomous vehicle reported to the DMV in August. (AP Photo/Google)


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  • giesoncacho

    I’m surprised it didn’t form Voltron.

    • Golfendude

      Not to worry Mother Earth is going to flush it all soon.

  • Where’s the story here? “Human driven Google car rear-ended by human driven Tesla car”

    This story could just as easily be about Ford F-150 and a Volkswagen in Lexington, KY. Instead we have clickbait implying two robotic cars collided.

    • Candid One

      Those Google self-driving cars are self-driving. The law currently requires the presence of an human “co-pilot” to monitor operations. Generally, that Google human isn’t driving.

      The Tesla is like any other human-driven car; its power source isn’t the key. What’s quite apparent is that the Tesla’s driver wasn’t paying attention–that is a driverless car…electric or otherwise.

      • BillStewart2012

        If you read the article, it said that the Google Human co-pilot was driving – but that doesn’t really affect the safety here – the accident was caused by the Tesla driver not paying attention (which is the case for most rear-ending accidents.)

    • Alan

      Worse than that, a close reading would imply that the Google car wasn’t even moving. A fitting title would have been “Driver hits parked car”. Sheesh!

    • Mike Smith

      Breaking News: A non-injury rear-end fender bender occurred two months ago!

      • gopher652003

        “Also breaking: Both cars were driven by humans at the time of the collision!”

    • NervousCat

      I can’t tell you how many times my brother was rear-ended at a traffic light when he lived in Sunnyvale and as well as down in Orange County. You can’t escape this fate if you live in California no matter how careful you drive (robot or not).

      • Cody Cook

        For real. I lived in Idaho and Utah and my car was never involved in an accident and then I moved to San Jose and I’m parked at the stop light 2nd car behind a construction machine on Calaveras and we are all going really slow after light turns green since the machine was slow, and then the guy runs into me.

    • hightimber

      Right on, Doug. This is absolutely a non-story. Bring on the autonomous cars. I’ll bet I wouldn’t have been t-boned last week if a computer had been in charge of navigation.

    • Earl Henson

      Is this Yahoo! ?

  • Haggy

    There are a number of factors that determine the likelihood of a car getting rear ended, and part of that has to do with predictability. I won’t even begin to speculate, but I can certainly see more Teslas getting rear ended if drivers use TACC and set a minimum following distance based on a belief that their car will be able to stop itself. I don’t know if the Google car slowed down gradually, but the comments make me think the driver had something to do with it.

    If the driver did something out of abundance of caution, it sounds as if he didn’t expect the car to do what he expected, making it seem as if his actions wouldn’t have been expected by the car behind him either. That would be the case if he brought it to a sudden and unexpected stop because his “abundance of caution” made him think that the car might not do it on its own.

    That has nothing to do with legal liability, and if that was the case, the Tesla driver would have been legally liable. But if you view a cause as a necessary and sufficient condition to bring about a certain result, and the collision wouldn’t have happened if not for the driver’s specific action, then the Google driver caused the accident even though he wasn’t legally liable.

    • Karl Rowley

      The Internet is not a court of law. We don’t know who was responsible or liable, and given that there’s no police report I’m not just accepting Googles “it’s the other guys fault”. Every single time they will say this.

      • Dharma Galaxy

        You rear-end another car, you are at fault. There is never any question about it.

        • Alan

          I had a guy in front of me put the car in park (at a red light). Then, when the light turned green, he put into reverse instead of drive, and promptly backed into me. He could have easily claimed that I was at fault, but was honest.

          • Dharma Galaxy

            You were front-ended. If your car wasn’t moving then you are not at fault. A rear-end collision always involves the car behind moving.

            Actually, if they bother to take high quality pictures of the marks your tires leave on the road it can be determined if It was a rear-end collision or a front-end collision. If your brakes are set it leaves a different mark than if you are rolling.

    • Dharma Galaxy

      The proximate cause for a rear-end collision is always following too close for the road conditions. None of the other factors ever matter, either legally or physically.

  • Johnny Le

    Yep, it’s time Tesla pushes Google out of the way. By the time Tesla is fully autonomous, Google will still go 30 mph. It will never get out of the test drive mode.

  • Karl Rowley

    Google always says it’s the other car’s fault. It’s the Google way. Now in this case, was there a police report?

    • The Mogget

      Google’s car takes a lot of live data. Can the authorities download it and recreate the even from the self-driving sensor record?

      • Karl Rowley

        No CHP and the Mountain View Police don’t have the time for that kind of nonsense.

        • The Mogget

          They have time to drive out there and interview people and fill out reports and they don’t have time to plug in a laptop and download the answer in a couple minutes?

  • Dharma Galaxy

    Are you ready for a full fleet of Sunday drivers who actually obey the speed limit? I bet the Google cars are actually involved in more accidents per mile than human drivers — almost all of them having the Google car rear-ended.

    • Yes, lots of Google cars will get hit by impatient morons. The good thing is this will take the morons off the road for a while, making us even safer. God what a great company.

      • Dharma Galaxy

        Sadly, a rear-ender usually doesn’t get them off the road.

        I will predict that once we finally do get the morons off the road the speed limits will be raised, or even eliminated.

        • Alan

          Their insurance rates will eventually rise to the point where they can no longer afford to drive.

        • JerkassWoobie

          If people would simply stay to the right except to pass, and then move back over after passing, we could raise or eliminate speed limits. That’s why they can do that on the Autobahn – because people there know how to drive, as if they *aren’t* the only vehicle on the road.

  • valakos

    so people who drive expensive cars are more likely to be self centered pr!ck$… who knew?

  • Errol

    The government concluding that it is always the human driver that is at fault. Is this sort of like the cops always concluding that the citizen is at fault for everything, even for his own death when cops kill unarmed citizens?