Google has acknowledged that its futuristic self-driving cars have been in a total of 11 accidents in the past six years. But the company has attributed all of them to human error.
Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving car program, made the revelation in a blog post on Medium yesterday. AP takes credit for this since it came after the news service had revealed that the company reported to the California State Department of Motor Vehicles that three such accidents had occurred there since last September.
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But the specifics of the accidents cannot be revealed as they are sealed under California State law. So in the absence of any civil suit being brought over the accidents there is no way to refute Google’s claims that they were caused by other drivers.
As Mr. Urmson wrote, “Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.”
He added, “If you spend enough time on the road, accidents will happen whether you’re in a car or a self-driving car.”
Google claims that over the 6 years since it began the project, it has been involved in 11 minor accidents with only light damage caused to the cars and no injuries sustained by any people. The company says that in that time its cars drove for 1.7 million miles of autonomous and manual driving.
Urmson also said that the acidents have been helpful in that Google was able to use them to learn more about driving patterns and therefore upgrade the cars’ automated systems.
“Not only are we developing a good understanding of minor accident rates on suburban streets, we’ve also identified patterns of driver behavior (lane-drifting, red-light running) that are leading indicators of significant collisions. Those behaviors don’t ever show up in official statistics, but they create dangerous situations for everyone around them, ” he wrote.
So if you think about it, Google has a point. 11 accidents in six years with different drivers in different states over 11.7 million miles is not that big a deal. And if they were all due to the other drivers and little more than fender benders, then it proves the company’s point: If all cars were automated there would be fewer accidents and the roads would be safer, maybe,