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Driverless car involved in crash in first hour of first day

James Titcomb
The self driving vehicle was starting its trial on Wednesday - City of Las Vegas

A driverless shuttle bus being tested in Las Vegas was involved in a crash an hour into its first day on the job - although it wasn't the vehicle's fault.

The eight-seater vehicle, started as a pilot of Las Vegas' smart city infrastructure, experienced a minor collision after a delivery lorry reversed into it. While the vehicle stopped when it noticed the lorry reversing, it also failed to avoid it.

Several people were inside the vehicle when it was hit.

The incident is the latest in a series of crashes involving driverless vehicles, the vast majority of which have been caused by the other vehicle's driver.

Almost all the incidents recorded by Waymo, Google's autonomous vehicle arm, have been down to human drivers hitting the vehicles, and a major crash involving Uber's driverless cars in March was down to the driver of the other car.

While driverless vehicles are seen as safer than humans, at least in fair conditions, they have also been seen as over-cautious and can move in a robotic fashion, meaning human drivers fail to anticipate their movements.

The Las Vegas pilot, a collaboration between the city, the American Automobile Association, French transport group Keolis and autonomous car group Navya, covers a 0.6-mile loop in downtown Las Vegas. It provides free trips and is designed to communicate with smart traffic lights to help manage traffic.

Key Questions | Driverless cars

"We were like ‘oh my gosh, it’s gonna hit us, it’s gonna hit us!’ and then, it hit us!" one of the passengers told local station KSNV. "The shuttle didn’t have the ability to move back, either. [It] just stayed still."

A spokesman for the City of Las Vegas said: "The shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that it’s sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident.

"Unfortunately the delivery truck did not stop and grazed the front fender of the shuttle. Had the truck had the same sensing equipment that the shuttle has the accident would have been avoided."