Police blame rider in autonomous car crash

Lane filtering lane splitting America blame

Blame for an autonomous car crashing into a motorcycle has been placed on the lane-splitting rider, despite the fact that it is legal in California.

It’s not the first crash involving an autonomous vehicle and not the first where a motorcycle was not detected by autonomous vehicle sensors.

It also comes as a US panel of motorcycle industry experts has claimed autonomous vehicles will “kill off” motorcycles.

The Californian incident occurred in San Francisco on December 7, 2017, when a Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle in autonomous mode changed lanes and hit a lane-splitting Honda Sport 90.

Autonomous Crash blame
A Cruise Automation Chevy Bolt

According to any accident report wth the California Department of Motor Vehicles the Bolt started changing lanes from the centre of three lanes to the left.

It then detected a closing gap and moved back into its lane and hit the bike which had lane split into the gap.

The Bolt was being tested in autonomous mode by a driver for Cruise Automation. It was travelling at 12mph (about 20km/h) and the Honda at about 17mph (27km/h), the crash report says.

The rider was unhurt, exchanged information with the driver and contacted 911 to report the accident as required.

Blame game

Surprisingly, the police claimed the rider was at fault, despite the fact that lane splitting is legal in the USA.

Cruise Automation, owned by powerful General Motors, claimed the rider “merged into our lane before it was safe to do so”.

Police accepted the GM claim saying the rider was “attempting to overtake and pass another vehicle on the right under conditions that did not permit that movement in safety”.

Interestingly, Cruise Automation reported 14 crashes between September and November this year while testing in San Francisco. This is the first involving a motorbike.

Controversy deepens

The incident deepens the controversy of autonomous vehicles, their testing, the legal ramifications and the danger posed to motorcycle riders.

What is of most concern is that the police sided with a major car company over an individual rider, even though he was performing a legal manoeuvre at slow speed.

Motorcycles seem to be overlooked in the mad rush to test and introduce autonomous self-diving vehicles.

In May this year, a 24-page Austroads and National Transport Commission report on guidelines for trials of autonomous vehicles made no mention at all of motorcycles, although bicycles were mentioned.

This is despite the European Community temporarily suspending all autonomous vehicle testing until motorcycles were included after a female motorcycle rider was rear-ended by an automated Tesla S under test in Norway.

Australian Motorcycle Council representative Guy Stanford has called on authorities to slow down the testing and introduction of autonomous vehicles.

6 Comments

  1. Lane splitting is not legal in California, it is simply not explicitly prohibited by law. That means police can use their discretion to determine if a lane-splitting motorcycle is driving too close to other traffic, passing illegally, driving too fast for traffic conditions, etc. Unfortunately, that means that the police will almost always conclude that the motorcyclist was at fault in a lane-splitting accident. This article also states that lane-splitting is legal in the USA — it is definitely illegal in almost every state other than California.

  2. All autonomous vehicles should be then made obvious by signs/paint, maybe huge letter “A s”, to give others a chance to stay away as we know how dangerous human drivers are, these things are a whole new ball game

  3. The algorithms for autonomous vehicles have to include ALL road users, ALL road rules and comply/adapt to any changes to them. Otherwise there should be no place on the public road network. Failing to factor in one of the vulnerable road users at best incompetent and at worst criminal. The rush to automate vehicles should not result in a recasting of the road rules to the limitations of the designers and constructors of autonomous vehicles.

  4. look up this story” Explosion in older motorcyclists who can’t kick riding habit” first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.
    of note: The NSW Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey described this trend as “worrying” and unexpected.
    and now the above article, grab a fistful of Throttle our days seem numbered.

  5. How can you “merge into a lane” if your ‘lane splitting’? Something wrong with this story or missing some other point, or lawyers looking for some ambiguity in the road rules.

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