Self-Driving Bus in Las Vegas Crashes on First Day in Service

November 9, 2017 Updated: November 9, 2017

The first driverless bus to hit public streets in the United States crashed on its first day—actually, in its first few hours—of operation in Las Vegas, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The smart shuttle was driving all by itself and carrying passengers near the Las Vegas Strip when it collided with a delivery truck around noon local time Wednesday Nov. 8, reports the Review-Journal.

But the news isn’t all bad for fans of autonomous vehicles. According to the police, it wasn’t the smart vehicle’s fault at all, but the human driver behind the wheel of the truck that caused the accident. The truck driver was cited for illegal backing, according to KSNV News3LV.

Passengers on the bus at the time of the collision were not injured.

“The shuttle just stayed still and we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s going to hit us, it’s going to hit us,’” a passenger told KSNV. “And then it hit us.”

According to a police assessment of the accident, the bus stopped when it sensed the truck was backing up. However, it was unable to back away from the reversing vehicle, reports the New York Daily News. The truck hit the driverless shuttle, making a noticeable dent in it.

The City of Las Vegas, which operates the vehicle, provided KSNV with a statement in response to the incident:

“The shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that its sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident. … Had the truck had the same sensing equipment that the shuttle has the accident would have been avoided.”

The shuttle can automatically communicate with traffic lights, react to other vehicles on the road, and stop for pedestrians.

Although self-driving vehicles promise great things—fewer accidents, less congested roads, and freeing up hours each day for drivers, concerns persist among an anxious public worried about software-fueled road fatalities.  And industry pushback against calls for mandatory disclosure of accident data has done little to address those fears.

They also face obstacles that human-driven vehicles don’t.

Self-driving car company Waymo has been mapping out areas in Metro Detroit because of its wet, cold winters. One hurdle that autonomous vehicle manufacturers have to address is how to run the vehicles on snow and ice.

“For human drivers, the mix of winter conditions affects how well you can see and the way your vehicle handles the road. The same is true for self-driving cars,” said Waymo chief executive John Krafcik in a blog post.

Despite the rocky start on its first day of operation, city representatives affirmed plans to keep operating the buses in the Las Vegas area over the next year, reported KSNV.

To encourage people to try the service out, rides are free.