Self-driving shuttle fender bender in Las Vegas delays shuttle launch in Wisconsin

The nation’s first self-driving shuttle pilot project makes its debut Wednesday, November 8, 2017, in downtown Las Vegas. (Bradford Boyer/KSNV)

The driverless shuttle that was involved in a fender bender last week in downtown Las Vegas is back up and running.

Federal investigators are investigating the incident which has forced a delay of a similar program in Madison, Wis.

When the shuttle was hit by a truck on its first day of operation, NTSB investigators said it also marked the first time a crash involved a self-driving vehicle out on a public road.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison was supposed to launch its autonomous shuttle this week but because of the crash in Las Vegas, the university is putting the brakes on that plan for now.

“Just general concern – not so much for my safety – but for the safety of people on the street. Like a little child running across the street, that the vehicle would know enough to stop and avoid any accidents,” said first-time passenger Dan Karp.

However, industry experts say pilot programs like the year-long one in Las Vegas are vital to improving both technology and safety.

“One is so that we can start saving lives immediately and the other reason is so they can start getting better faster because one of the key ways for them to get better is to be exposed to near driving situations,” said Nidhi Kalra of the RAND Corporation which researches autonomous vehicle’s applications in the real world.

Kalra said that autonomous vehicles could become mainstream helping to reduce crashes caused by human error – which could become a reality within the next five years.

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