For six years, Google has been testing self-driving car prototypes on the streets of Mountain View, with 14 reports of minor accidents. Earlier this month, however, one such collision left its three passengers with minor whiplash, the company reported Thursday. This was the first time a crash involving a Google car resulted in injuries.
In a blog post on Medium, Chris Urmson, lead of the company’s self-driving-car project, is quick to point out that 11 out of the 14 previous incidents were caused by rear-endings–and that this time was no different. As Urmson writes, the blame can be placed squarely on the very human driver steering the car behind Google’s prototype:
Our self-driving cars are being hit surprisingly often by other drivers who are distracted and not paying attention to the road. That’s a big motivator for us. The most recent collision, during the evening rush hour on July 1, is a perfect example. One of our Lexus vehicles was driving autonomously towards an intersection in Mountain View, CA. The light was green, but traffic was backed up on the far side, so three cars, including ours, braked and came to a stop so as not to get stuck in the middle of the intersection. After we’d stopped, a car slammed into the back of us at 17 mph — and it hadn’t braked at all.
The Google car allegedly braked normally, and left enough room for the car behind to come to a stop as well. The incident is re-created in a simulation video:
Urmson claims that every accident has been the result of “human error and inattention”; he says that not a single collision thus far has been caused by one of Google’s self-driving cars. “We’ll take all this as a signal that we’re starting to compare favorably with human drivers,” he adds.
In other words, the robots also beat us in the driving department, as Urmson notes: “Our self-driving cars can pay attention to hundreds of objects at once, 360 degrees in all directions, and they never get tired, irritable, or distracted.”
[via ABC News]