Google’s self-driving cars are getting into accidents – but it’s not their fault. Instead it’s human drivers, distracted by their iPhones and such, that keep running into Google’s autonomous vehicles.
At least that’s what Google’s Chris Urmson has to day.
“Our self-driving cars are being hit surprisingly often by other drivers who are distracted and not paying attention to the road,” he writes in a new blog post.
In fact, on July 1st, a Google self-driving car was involved in its first accident with a minor injury.
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.
As you can see from the video above, our braking was normal and natural, and the vehicle behind us had plenty of stopping distance — but it never decelerated. This certainly seems like the driver was distracted and not watching the road ahead. Thankfully, everyone in both vehicles was okay, except for a bit of minor whiplash, and a few scrapes on our bumper. The other vehicle wasn’t so lucky; its entire front bumper fell off.
The crash didn’t result in a police report – none have so far.
Of course, Google is taking it as a sign that it’s really on to something with this whole project.
“Other drivers have hit us 14 times since the start of our project in 2009 (including 11 rear-enders), and not once has the self-driving car been the cause of the collision. Instead, the clear theme is human error and inattention. We’ll take all this as a signal that we’re starting to compare favorably with human drivers,” says Urmson.
Google recently expanded its self-driving car tests to Austin, Texas.
Image via Google