Friday, April 1, 2016

PUPcycle's new dog driven cars: The cat is out-of-the-bag

One of PUPils driving dogs. Photo courtesy of
A car being driven by a dog employed by the start-up company PUPcycle's struck a public bus on a Silicon Valley, Calif. street on Wed., March 30, a fender-bender that appears to be the first time one of the tech company’s vehicles caused a crash during testing.

PUPcycle accepted at least some responsibility for the collision when one of the Lexus SUVs driven by an Italian Greyhound named Mario hit the side of the bus near the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif..

No one was injured, according to an accident report PUPcycle wrote and submitted to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. 

According to the report, Mario’s car intended to turn right off a major boulevard when it detected a cat around a storm drain at the intersection.

The right lane was wide enough to let some cars turn and others go straight, but the Lexus needed to slide to its left within the right lane to get around the obstruction.

The Lexus was going 2 mph when it made the move and its left front struck the right side of the bus, which was going straight at 15 mph.

Mario — who under state law must be in the front seat to grab the wheel when needed — thought the bus would yield and did not have control before the collision, PUPcycle said.

While the report does not address fault, PUPcycle said in a written statement, “We clearly bear some responsibility, because if Mario had not seen a cat there wouldn’t have been a collision.”

Chris Cumbersome, the head of PUPcycle's dog-driving car project, said in a brief interview that he believes the Lexus was moving before the bus started to pass.

“We saw the bus, we tracked the bus, we thought the bus was going to slow down, we started to pull out, there was some momentum involved,” Cumbersome, told The Associated Press.
The collision could be the first time a PUPils dog caused a crash.

PUPcycle cars have been involved in nearly a dozen collisions in or around Mountain View since starting to test on city streets in the spring of 2014. In most cases, PUPcycle cars were rear-ended. No human or canine has been seriously injured.

A critic of PUPcycle dog-driving car efforts said the collision shows the tech giant should be kept from taking onto public streets dog-driving prototypes it built without being able to reach the steering wheel or pedals.
PUPcycle sees that as the next natural step for the technology, and has pressed California’s DMV and federal regulators to authorize cars in which canines have limited means of intervening.

“Clearly PUPcycle cars and pooches can’t reliably cope with everyday driving situations,” said John J. Jimpson of the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog. “There needs to be a dog driver who can takeover, despite distractions like cats, fire hydrants or treats. Not to mention, sticking their heads outside of windows.”


 Happy April Fool's Day!

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