Las Vegas' driverless shuttle involved in crash on first day

A self-driving Navya Arma bus shuttle in Paris. A similar vehicle was involved in a minor accident with a delivery truck in Las Vegas last week. Jacques Demarthon  AFP

The autonomous shuttle was testing today when it was grazed by a delivery truck in #dtlv.

Las Vegas recently deployed a driverless bus to shuttle passengers along a half-mile route of the city's Fremont East district. Thursday also marked the shuttle's first collision.

No injuries were reported and the shuttle is expected to quickly return to service.

According to one of the shuttle's passengers, the collision seemed to happen in "slow-motion". It was dinged by a tractor-trailer as the truck attempted to back into an alley to make a delivery.

The shuttle was hit by a truck, the City of Las Vegas said in a blog post, after the truck's (human) driver failed to stop in time.

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"The shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that it's (sic) sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident", the city said in a statement.

With another vehicle behind the Navya shuttle, it froze in place as the truck backed up, Moreno said.

While the truck driver was cited, the incident shows how autonomous cars can struggle to anticipate the non-verbal communication that goes on between human drivers on the road every day, said Duke University robotics professor Missy Cummings.

Zurschmeide acknowledged that the truck driver was certainly to blame for the accident, but he also stated that improved safety features on self-driving shuttles could allow the vehicles to react smarter in the future.

"We had about 20 feet of empty street behind us (I looked) and most human drivers would have thrown the vehicle into reverse and used some of that space to get away from the truck", Zurschmeide wrote. "Or at least leaned on the horn and made our presence harder to miss", said Zurschmeide.

The bus was developed by French company Navya and uses Global Positioning System, electronic kerb sensors and other technology to find its way along Vegas streets with a strict 15mph limit.

AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah (AAA) is sponsoring the nation's first self-driving shuttle pilot project geared specifically for the public.

"He probably had an expectation that the shuttle would back off and allow him to do his thing", Cummings said.

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