On Tuesday, Senate bill 1298 was signed into law at Google’s headquarters. This makes it so California must adopt rules and regulations for the operation of driverless cars like the ones Google has. It makes it legal for these things to drive on the road.
Many are no doubt wondering what this means for safety.
Well, Google has been touting the safety of the self-driving vehicles ever since they were unveiled. A few months ago, CEO Larry Page talked up the cars in relation to the safety of our children. At the Zeitgeist 2012 event in May, he said, “You know, and that seems really crazy. You’re like, how can a car possibly drive itself? You know, how’s that ever going to work? And, you know, we’ve had a team working on that and we’ve driven over 200,000 miles now with no incidents. And it’s really amazing to ride in one of these cars. It’s just almost a life-changing experience. You sit down, you drive through the parking lot, and you’re like ‘Why am I driving,’ you know?”
“It’s just an amazing, amazing experience,” he continued. “And think about — you know, I have young children. I’m sure many of you do as well. Think about your children. By the time that they’re old enough to drive, there’s no reason we can’t have technology that helps them — teaches them to drive and learn all the things they need to know. And that’s like almost, I think, the leading cause of death, actually, for kids as they learn to drive. I mean, it’s a big deal. So I think, you know, my point was that I think in technology, if we take some ambitious bets, we really have an amazing ability to transform people’s lives.”
By the way, the cars have driven many more miles since that speech. Earlier this month, they surpassed 300,000.
So far, the cars have been involved in two known accidents. One accident happened last year. Google said that it was the result of human error. “Safety is our top priority,” the company told Business Insider at the time. “One of our goals is to prevent fender-benders like this one, which occurred while a person was manually driving the car.”
Another incident was mentioned in a New York Times article from 2010, when Google engineers said that there had only been one accident, and that it happened when the car was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light.
So far, we have heard of no incident in which a driverless car was responsible for a crash because of being a driverless car. I wonder how many humans have crashed cars during Google’s 300,000 miles.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers predicts that self-driving cars will account for 75% of traffic by 2040.