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Call it a close encounter of the third gear.

For the past six years, tech companies — led by Google — have been testing out self-driving cars. As the robotic prototypes have moved from private tracks to public roads, the projects have raised hopes of safer transportation. After all, it’s human error that causes nearly all driving accidents.

But a near collision between two self-driving cars is now raising concerns over the technology, Reuters news service reported. On Tuesday, Reuters said, two driverless prototypes, one operated by Google and the other by Delphi Automotive, nearly collided in Palo Alto, California.

But Google subsequently denied the report, and Delphi sent a statement saying the story was taken out of context.

John Absmeier, director of Delphi’s Silicon Valley lab, was a passenger in his company’s self-driving Audi Q5 as it drove along San Antonio Road when it was suddenly cut off by a Google-operated Lexus SUV, Absmeier initially told Reuters.

But Delphi subsequently sent out this statement:

“The story was taken completely out of context when describing a type of complex driving scenario that can occur in the real world. Our expert provided an example of a lane change scenario that our car recently experienced which, coincidentally, was with one of the Google cars also on the road at that time. It wasn’t a ‘near miss’ as described in the Reuters story.”

The pair of fully automated autos did not collide.

Both cars were equipped with similar technology, including lasers, radar, cameras and computer systems enabling the cars to drive on their own without need of human drivers. Both cars did, however, have people behind the wheel in case of an emergency.

The incident is believed to be the first of its kind, according to Reuters. It came on the same day that Google announced its latest model of self-driving car was already hitting the streets of Silicon Valley.

Posted 7:48 PM

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