Last month, Google said it was almost ready to start testing its self-driving car prototypes on public roads, and that it would happen sometime this summer.
Well, that time is now. A few cars from Google's fleet are now cruising California highways. Slowly.
"These prototype vehicles are designed from the ground up to be fully self-driving. They’re ultimately designed to work without a steering wheel or pedals, but during this phase of our project we’ll have safety drivers aboard with a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal, and brake pedal that allow them to take over driving if needed. The prototypes’ speed is capped at a neighborhood-friendly 25mph, and they’ll drive using the same software that our existing Lexus vehicles use—the same fleet that has self-driven over 1 million miles since we started the project." says Google.
After pressure from watchdog groups, Google agreed to put out monthly accident reports for its self-driving cars.
"Safety is our top priority. In the 6 years of our project, we’ve been involved in a small number of accidents in more than 1.8 million miles of autonomous and manual driving combined. Our vehicles have not caused any accidents while in self-driving mode," says.
The specific figure is 12 minor accidents – all of which were the other car's fault. Recent data released by the California DMV confirmed Google's claims.
“When we started designing the world’s first fully self-driving vehicle, our goal was a vehicle that could shoulder the entire burden of driving. Vehicles that can take anyone from A to B at the push of a button could transform mobility for millions of people, whether by reducing the 94 percent of accidents caused by human error (PDF), reclaiming the billions of hours wasted in traffic, or bringing everyday destinations and new opportunities within reach of those who might otherwise be excluded by their inability to drive a car,” says Chris Urmson, Director of the Self-Driving project.
Recent polls on self-driving cars show that about a quarter of Americans "see no benefit" in the technology.