A modified Lexus RX450h SUV fitted with Apple’s self-driving equipment and sensors was involved in a crash while driving around Sunnyvale, California and other nearby Silicon Valley cities. According to a report filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, it was the first time an Apple self-driving car was involved in an accident, but like most autonomous car crashes, it wasn’t the software’s fault.
The Apple self-driving car was driving around 1 mph while merging on an expressway in Sunnyvale when a Nissan Leaf hit the car from behind while going at 15 mph. Both the cars sustained damage, but neither of the car’s passengers got any injuries, according to the report.
While this doesn’t really much about Apple’s progress in making autonomous cars, as the accident was most likely resulted out of human error, it is interesting to note that most such accidents involving self-driving cars have been rear-enders. Per a report by Consumer Affairs last year, most self-driving car crashes involved a human-driven car ramming into the back of either a stationary or slow-moving self-driving car.
That indicates that while Apple, Google and other self-driving car makers can make software capable enough to drive safely, the same cannot be said about humans. Autonomous software makers need to take this into account. Autonomous cars don’t drive the same way as people do (which is kind of the whole point of having an autonomous car in the first place). However, if they don’t drive they way humans do, they are likely to get into conflict with human drivers on road.
A workaround for this is to take into account the on-road behaviour of humans and apply some of them to avoid these kinds of crashes. For Apple, the crash is an inevitable, yet small bump in the road to get autonomous cars on the roads. Apple expanded its fleet to 27 cars in January and then again by 18 more cars in March. Apple has also partnered with Volkswagen to have a fleet of such cars in its Cupertino campus.