First crash in fleet to injure person reported by company’s director for self-driving cars
Google has stated that one of its self-driving cars has been involved in a crash that resulted in whiplash injuries, the first Google autonomous driving incident to cause an injury since the project began on 2009.
The company’s self-driving car was hit by a vehicle from behind, during rush hour on 1 July. Google’s director for self-driving cars, Chris Urmson, said in his blog that while the vehicle that hit the self-driving car had plenty of stopping distance, it did not.
He noted: “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.”
He added: “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.”
Google has begun making monthly reports on incidents its self-driving cars are involved in after a shareholder requested more transparency, Bloomberg reported.
Urmson stated that in over six years since Google began the self-driving vehicle project, its cars have been involved in 14 accidents. He noted:”… not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.” Altogether those vehicles had travelled 1.7 million miles of autonomous and manual driving with Google’s safety drivers behind the wheel.
None of the accidents in which people hit a Google self-driving car resulted in a police report , including the 1 July crash, even though the police were on site, said Urmson.
Urmson said: “…The clear theme is human error and inattention. We’ll take all this as a signal that we’re starting to compare favourably with human drivers.”