Las Vegas driverless shuttle involved in crash on first day

Commentary: A self-driving shuttle and a human-driven truck collide. Authorities blame the human.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Oh, dear. On the first day, too.

KSNV-TV/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The brave new world is upon us.

One question to ask, however, is how brave the robots of the new world truly are.

I only wonder because of an accident that occurred in downtown Las Vegas on Thursday. 

As KSNV-TV reports, a self-driving shuttle and a human-driven truck were involved in a collision. 

It wasn't a good day for the shuttle, made by French company Navya, to be in an incident. It was its first day of operation and Las Vegas was the first city to enjoy it.

The shuttle had only hit the roads for an hour before it was hit by the truck. 

Those inside the shuttle seemed shaken. "The shuttle just stayed still. And we were like, it's going to hit us, it's going to hit us. And then it hit us," passenger Jenny Wong told KSNV. 

Well, we all feel a touch of fear the first time we're driving on our own, but this still sounds quite frightening.

Nayva didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. However, the shuttle's sponsor, AAA, released this statement on Twitter: "Truck making delivery backed into shuttle, which was stopped. Human error causes most traffic collisions and this was no different. Driver of truck was cited. No one hurt except a bruised bumper!"

Moreover, the City of Las Vegas issued its own statement in which it said that the shuttle stopped as it was supposed to, but the truck did not.

It added, somewhat haughtily: "Had the truck had the same sensing equipment that the shuttle has the accident would have been avoided."

To which a spokesman for the humans might add: "Well, if the shuttle had been driven by a human, it might not have just stood there, waiting to be hit."

The city of Las Vegas didn't immediately respond when I put that suggestion to it. KSNV did report, however, that there was a human expert on board the shuttle in case of emergency.

It's odd how seemingly every accident in which a self-driving vehicle is involved is blamed on a human. I can find only one incident in which a robocar's makers -- Google, in this instance -- admitted the AI was at fault.

Clearly, the robots will win in the end, because the self-driving ecosystem has so much money behind it and auto manufacturers have hopped on the self-driving shuttle, for fear of being left behind.

There will, though, be a difficult transition period. One in which the humans will sometimes be blamed for just not getting that they're supposed to start thinking like robots.