Self-driving bus involved in crash on first day in Las Vegas

9 Nov 2017

A Navya autonomous shuttle bus, the same model involved in the Las Vegas crash. Image: Navya

In a PR setback for those advocating for self-driving vehicles, an autonomous bus has crashed on its first day on the road in Las Vegas.

A day that was supposed to be a welcome one for autonomous vehicle enthusiasts has turned sour, with news that a self-driving shuttle bus has crashed, with several passengers on board.

According to the BBC, the bus – the first of its kind to carry passengers in the US – was travelling at a low speed in Las Vegas when it collided with a lorry.

The bus was launched to shuttle people along the famous Las Vegas strip at an average speed of 25kph.

A spokesperson for the city of Las Vegas said that there were no injuries in the collision as it was just a “fender bender”, with expectations that the bus will be back on the road today (9 November).

Explaining what happened, the city’s public information officer, Jace Radke, said: “A delivery truck was coming out of an alley.

“The shuttle did what it was supposed to do and stopped. Unfortunately, the human element, the driver of the truck, didn’t stop.”

Call for ramping up of self-driving vehicles

The incident is sure to see some asking questions around the pace at which autonomous vehicles are entering public roads, given that Google’s Waymo division is about to launch a fleet of autonomous taxis on the streets of Phoenix, Arizona.

However, a recent report from the RAND Corporation – a US government think tank – has claimed that even the use of moderately capable self-driving cars would go a long way towards reducing the number of road deaths.

The report estimated that even if autonomous cars were just 10pc better than US drivers, it could prevent thousands of road deaths.

Estimates put the number of US road deaths at more than 40,000 last year. If we were to wait until autonomous cars were between 75pc and 90pc better than humans, hundreds of thousands of lives might be lost unnecessarily.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic