Google’s self-driving cars have logged 1.7 million miles of autonomous and manual driving over the past six years. In that six-year span, Google’s cars have been involved in 11 minor accidents. None of those were the fault of Google according to Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving car program.
There are more than 20 cars in Google’s self-driving fleet. Today, they average nearly 10,000 self-driven miles per week.
Urmson offers a lot more details about the accidents. Rear-end crashes were the most common at seven accidents. These occurred “mainly at traffic lights but also on the freeway.”
Other accidents included getting hit by a car rolling through a stop sign. Plus, the majority of accidents came on city streets compared to freeways. “We were hit 8 times in many fewer miles of city driving.”
“Lots of people aren’t paying attention to the road.”
We’ve all seen it. Hell, most of us have probably done it at some point. We look at our phones when we should be paying attention to the road.
According to a recent National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), there are 660,000 drivers who are distracted by their devices instead of keeping an eye on the road.
It’s not just smartphones either. According to Urmson, one of their safety drivers spotted a person “playing a trumpet.” Got to get that practice in whenever you can.
Urmson highlights several scenarios where human error nearly caused collisions. Intersections were one of the biggest problems. In one case, a cyclist almost gets hit by a car making a left turn.
Intersections are notorious danger zones. According to the Federal Highway Administration, 21% of traffic fatalities in recent years have occurred in intersections.
Urmson’s Medium post is an excellent read for anyone who wants to understand exactly how Google’s self-driving cars work.
Google says they try to learn something from every accident, even when it’s not their fault. The data they have gathered has helped Google identify several patterns of driver behavior. These include lane-drifting and red-light running.
If you are out driving today, put the smartphone down. Oh, and the trumpet. I’m sure both can wait until you get home.