Google’s self-driving autonomous cars have been involved in 11 accidents since they began testing on public roads in California six years ago.
That number only came to light after The Associated Press reported that three minor collisions involving Google autonomous cars have been reported to Californian authorities since September 2014, when doing so became a requirement of the testing permit. Another incident involving a car run by Delphi was also reported.
Programme director Chris Urmson wrote on Medium.com that none of the accidents were the result of a software fault. He revealed that seven were simple rear-enders, but that leaves four unaccounted for. Google has not released any accident reports and under California State law, all accident reports are confidential.
The AP cited an anonymous source who claimed all the collisions happened at speeds of no more than 10mph, and that only minor damage was caused. There were no injuries, either.
Google currently runs 23 Lexus RXs equipped with its self-driving systems; a total of 48 driverless cars have permits for testing on California’s roads. Nevada, Michigan and Florida have passed laws allowing testing of driverless cars and the UK government plans to, as well.
Google’s cars have clocked up a total of 1.7 million miles of testing; 11 minor incidents during that time is quite a good average, about half the US average of 0.6 per 100,000 miles.
But it is worrying that Google has not fully divulged the circumstances of the collisions its cars have been involved in, particularly whether or not they were running in autonomous mode.
Regardless, it raises questions about the system’s ability to avoid low-speed accidents, either by taking over control from the driver or within the normal perameters of autonomous running. Safety is one of the main selling points of autonomous cars so these questions need to be answered, especially as Google’s technology would ultimately do away with the pedals and steering wheel that would allow the ‘driver’ to take over in emergency situations.
By Only Motors