Google car crash "not a surprise", says US transport secretary

Anthony Foxx, the US secretary of transportation, has spoken out about the recent crash involving Google's autonomous car last month, sayin it is "not a surprise".

Speaking to BBC News, Foxx said we shouldn't expect the emerging technology to be perfect.

"Driverless technology presents a lot of potential for disruption on a number of fronts. It's unclear to me now exactly how that future unfolds," said Foxx.

"It's not a surprise that at some point there would be a crash of any technology that's on the road. But I would challenge one to look at the number of crashes that occurred on the same day that were the result of human behavior. I think the question here isn't comparing the automated car against perfection, I think it's a relative comparison to what we have now on the roads which is you and I, and our eyeballs, and our brains."

The accident in question occurred on 14 February with details emerging at the beginning of the month, when one of Google's Lexus SUVs changed lanes suddenly and collided with a bus. Though nobody was injured and both vehicles were moving slowly at the time, the incident has raised concerns.

"In this case, we clearly bear some responsibility, because if our car hadn't moved there wouldn't have been a collision," a Google spokesperson said at the time.

Fox told the BBC, however, that one of the biggest challenges related to autonomous vehicles is not the technology itself but the legal issues surrounding such a crash, particularly determining who is at fault out of the passenger, the computer and the software company.

At the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, Foxx announced that seven cities across the US had reached the final stage of a competition to receive $40 million (28 million) funding for 'smart technologies' such as driverless vehicles. The US government has already committed $4 billion (2.8 billion) to self-driving cars in the country.

Caroline Preece

Caroline has been writing about technology for more than a decade, switching between consumer smart home news and reviews and in-depth B2B industry coverage. In addition to her work for IT Pro and Cloud Pro, she has contributed to a number of titles including Expert Reviews, TechRadar, The Week and many more. She is currently the smart home editor across Future Publishing's homes titles.

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