Don't blame the car, blame the human driver who is obviously trying to hide his face.

As if to spite me just days after I was gushing about Google’s driverless Toyota Prius, they go and rear-end someone and cause a five car accident. But as it turns out, it wasn't the car's fault at all: the crash was due to human error. And faster than you can dig your driver license out of the trash, Google’s putting the word out that the robot was not at fault. A spokesperson told Business Insider, “Safety is our top priority. One of our goals is to prevent fender-benders like this one, which occurred while a person was manually driving the car.”

The story broke when a Jalopnik reader sent in a photo of the accident which took place not far from Google’s Mountain View, California headquarters. The image of a woman on her cell phone, a police officer on the scene and the forlorn Google driver leaning on his car – the street view mount sticking out like a torn brake pad – is certainly not the kind of press that’s going to help Google fulfill their dreams of an accident-free robotic car paradise.

Of course, we'll have to wait for the police report to confirm that it was the driver's fault with his languid 500 millisecond reaction time. But it's not hard to believe that one human rear-ended another, and as it stands this accident is a clear-cut example of why we need robotic cars. Hopefully this little bump in the road doesn’t slow Google down too much. It will most definitely speed up thinking about and perhaps setting guidelines for litigation involving driverless cars. Who’s at fault? A related question: will all insurance premiums be the same regardless of sex, age, prior nondriverless driving record?

For my money, I’m still behind the car with my hands off of the steering wheel. The fact that it was a human being’s fault means the robot’s still got 160,000+ miles of accident-free driving behind it. How many humans can make the same claim?

[image credit: Jalopnik]
image: Google accident

Peter Murray was born in Boston in 1973. He earned a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore studying gene expression in the neocortex. Following his dissertation work he spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow at the same university studying brain mechanisms of pain and motor control. He completed a collection of short stories in 2010 and has been writing for Singularity Hub since March 2011.