ZDNet proclaims that “Self-driving bus crashes two hours after launch in Las Vegas”.
Fox News screams “Self-driving shuttle crashes in Las Vegas hours after launch”.
Even the staid Times of London blared “Self-driving bus crashes on first day in service”.
When a minor accident occurred between a Navya autonomous vehicle and a delivery truck in Las Vegas this week, it was a field day for the Luddite press, and an undeserved black eye for Navya, the Paris-based manufacturer of autonomous all-electric shuttle buses.
In reality what happened was a classic fender bender: A truck backed up into its blind spot and didn’t see the little shuttle until it was too late. The shuttle, which admittedly should have backed out of harm’s way, suffered a few scratches. No passengers were injured.
According to the official statement by the city of Las Vegas,
The autonomous shuttle was testing today when it was grazed by a delivery truck downtown. The shuttle did what it was supposed to do … Unfortunately the delivery truck did not stop and grazed the front fender of the shuttle. … The driver of the truck was cited by Metro.
So that’s it — a clear example of human driver error, and a classic news story of the type “Dog Bites Man”, which is to say, no real news value at all.
But why make such a big deal over a “grazed front fender”? Perhaps it’s because a new technology is involved, one that is still scary to a lot of people.
Apparently, the average 102 people killed in the US alone in a typical day by car accidents is too common to be interesting. Let’s hope for the day when a car accident, like a plane crash, will be huge headline news. Till then, let’s keep a sense of perspective as autonomous vehicles ramp up to speed.