Menu
Google's self-driving cars of tomorrow face the mean streets of today

Google's self-driving cars of tomorrow face the mean streets of today

Google's cars have been in 11 accidents in their six years of testing, the company says

This illustration shows how Google's self-driving car is programmed to slow down to avoid a car to its left making a right turn.

This illustration shows how Google's self-driving car is programmed to slow down to avoid a car to its left making a right turn.

Google says its self-driving cars can make driving safer because they pay better attention to the road than humans do - though there have been dings along the way.

While smartphones and other in-car distractions can fatally hinder a driver's concentration, "a self-driving car has people beat on this dimension of road safety," says Chris Urmson, director of Google's self-driving car program. With 360-degree visibility, the newest sensors in Google's fleet can keep track of other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians to a distance of nearly two football fields, he wrote in a post on Medium on Monday.

Still, Google's cars have been involved in 11 accidents in the six years the company has been testing them, Urmson reported. The fleet of 20-plus cars has covered 1.7 million miles of autonomous and manual driving in that time.

In all cases, there was only light damage and no injuries. And not once did a Google car cause the accident, he wrote.

Urmson's post appeared after the Associated Press reported on Monday that Google's cars had been involved in three accidents just since September. The post lays out some of what Google has learned so far in testing its cars, including observations on drivers' actions that can lead to collisions.

The post also highlights an issue that Google and other autonomous driving hopefuls must address before self-driving cars go mainstream: how to recognize and respond to the wacky driving habits of humans.

Take intersections: To account for the possibility of another driver running a red light, Google has programmed its cars to pause briefly after a light turns green before proceeding into the intersection.

With their software and sensors, Google's cars can take action earlier and faster than an alert human driver, he wrote. But sometimes they can't overcome the realities of speed and distance, and they get hit just waiting for a light to change.

Out of the 11 reported accidents, Google's cars have been hit from behind seven times, according to the post. That happened mainly at traffic lights but also on the freeway.

The company's cars have also been side-swiped a couple of times and hit by a car rolling through a stop sign, the post said.

Google's cars now average 16,000km of autonomous driving a week, mostly on city streets near Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California.

The post also illustrates some of the ways in which Google's cars have successfully reacted to human drivers' erratic actions. Google says it has observed drivers making right turns from the lane to the left of its self-driving cars, cutting sharply across the Google car's path.

In those cases, Google's car will slow down, Urmson wrote, "to avoid the car making this crazy turn."

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags internetGooglesearch enginesanalyticsconsumer electronics

Events

Featured

Slideshows

Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners

Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners

This year’s Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards were held as an integral part of the first entirely virtual Emerging Leaders​ forum, an annual event dedicated to identifying, educating and showcasing the New Zealand technology market’s rising stars. The 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 recognised the outstanding achievements and business excellence of 30 talented individuals​, across both young leaders and those just starting out. In this slideshow, Reseller News honours this year's winners and captures their thoughts about how their ideas of leadership have changed over time.​

Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners
Reseller News Exchange Auckland: Beyond the myths — how partners can master cloud security

Reseller News Exchange Auckland: Beyond the myths — how partners can master cloud security

This exclusive Reseller News Exchange event in Auckland explored the challenges facing the partner community on the cloud security frontier, as well as market trends, customer priorities and how the channel can capitalise on the opportunities available. In association with Arrow, Bitdefender, Exclusive Networks, Fortinet and Palo Alto Networks. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Reseller News Exchange Auckland: Beyond the myths — how partners can master cloud security
Reseller News welcomes industry figures at 2020 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomes industry figures at 2020 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomed 2019 inductees - Leanne Buer, Ross Jenkins and Terry Dunn - to the fourth running of the Reseller News Hall of Fame lunch, held at the French Cafe in Auckland. The inductees discussed the changing face of the IT channel ecosystem in New Zealand and what it means to be a Reseller News Hall of Fame inductee. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Reseller News welcomes industry figures at 2020 Hall of Fame lunch
Show Comments