Self-driving cars have accidents, too — but humans are to blame

Nate Swanner - May 11, 2015, 2:40pm CDT
Self-driving cars have accidents, too — but humans are to blame

Autonomous cars have many excited, and enough worried about their safety. In a new blog post, Google’s self-driving car lead, Chris Urmson, says while the autonomous vehicles do suffer the occasional fender-bender, it’s not their fault. Those accidents also aren’t much more than paint-swapping incidents; 11 accidents with no injuries to passengers in the car and light damage to the vehicle. Urmson also says none of the accidents autonomous cars were involved in can be attributed to the tech inside.


Humans just suck at driving.

Urmson also says the accidents are necessary for the self-driving car program to flourish, along with tons of driving:

The most common accidents our cars are likely to experience in typical day to day street driving — light damage, no injuries — aren’t well understood because they’re not reported to police. Yet according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, these incidents account for 55% of all crashes. It’s hard to know what’s really going on out on the streets unless you’re doing miles and miles of driving every day. And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing with our fleet of 20+ self-driving vehicles and team of safety drivers, who’ve driven 1.7 million miles (manually and autonomously combined). The cars have self-driven nearly a million of those miles, and we’re now averaging around 10,000 self-driven miles a week (a bit less than a typical American driver logs in a year), mostly on city streets.

The cars are also learning where the most dangerous places are when driving; something we likely knew, but these machines are learning why they’re so dangerous, and how to mitigate damage (Literally). Again, humans are just terrible at driving:

We see people turning onto, and then driving on, the wrong side of the road a lot — particularly at night, it’s common for people to overshoot or undershoot the median.

This seems to be in response to a CNBC report earlier that suggested self-driving cars were not exempt from accidents. Four fender-benders have been reported since September. Those familiar with the incidents said the cars were in control in two of those accidents, and all involved speeds of less than 10mph.

Source: Backchannel


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