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Google Automated Car Accidents: Not Our Fault

Self-driving cars have been involved in several accidents, but the blame appears to belong to other drivers.

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Google's fleet of more than 20 self-driving cars has driven 1.7 million miles in the past six years -- manually and autonomously. These vehicles have been involved in 11 minor accidents during that period, said Chris Urmson, director of Google's self-driving car project, in an op-ed post on Monday.

According to Google, none of those accidents can be attributed to the company's technology, which has been touted as a way to make driving less dangerous.

"Safety is our highest priority," a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "Since the start of our program six years ago, we've driven nearly a million miles autonomously, on both freeways and city streets, and the self-driving car hasn't caused a single accident."

In other words, people can't help driving into Google's cars. As Urmson notes in his post, 94% of crashes happened as a result of driver error.

(Image: Google)

(Image: Google)

In an endorsement of automated vehicle technology, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in 2010 estimated that if every vehicle had collision avoidance, lane-keeping, blind-spot, and adaptive headlight systems, almost a third of crashes and accident deaths could be avoided.

The accidents involving Google's self-driving cars have not resulted in any injuries and have led to only minor vehicle damage, according to the company.

Based on IIHS statistics, there were 3,000 deaths in California in 2013, which translates into a death rate of 0.93 per million vehicle miles travelled. Though Google's almost two dozen self-driving cars haven't logged enough miles to present a valid statistical picture of fatalities, the initial data suggests the company's self-driving cars, with no injuries in 1.7 million miles, have a better safety record than manually controlled vehicles.

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Google addressed the issue following an AP report that said four of the almost 50 self-driving cars in California have been involved in accidents since the state began issuing testing licenses for autonomous vehicles in September. Two of those cars belong to Google.

The AP obtained some information from the California DMV, which is limited in the details it can provide under state law. The absence of official accident reports means that the public has no option but to rely on Google's account of what happened.

According to the AP, Google's 11 accidents work out to an accident rate of 0.6 per 100,000 miles driven, about twice the rate cited by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But more than half of minor accidents go unreported, according to NHTSA's estimate, making accurate statistical comparisons difficult.

A 2014 RAND report predicts that automated vehicle technology will be adopted because it's safer than manual control, but cautions that manufacturers may delay the rollout of autonomous systems until the liability issues get settled. (That is, who should pay when a car controlled by a computer crashes?)

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
6/12/2015 | 12:05:53 PM
Re: Yet Another Target
@ Pedro I agree with you there. I believe that its basically the necessity which drive the buying habbit. I agree that adoloscent is the age where people wants to have a look with which they want to impress may be  their fellows or sometimes opposite gender. This is true every where but I believe that its a very important decision to make at that time which should not be made in a haste. As far as the military is concerned I believe that developing the weaponary without the drivers is a must for any future conflict. You can use these weapons on a mission where success is not 100% guarentted. You can also use these weapons to train your troops against all tactics and techniques which is not possible for a human being.
nomii
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50%
nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
6/12/2015 | 11:57:29 AM
Re: Yet Another Target
@Kastron I agree with you there about the image but I believe its not only the image which matters. People are looking for a whole package which can offer you a more polished look with safety as well as comfort. Now looking deep into the new cars that are on offering I must consider all the positives one by one as well as as all the negatives. I think I must keep my ego aside for a time being to have something which is worthwhile. Now its about people where few will go for comfort while other will go for image.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
6/4/2015 | 10:27:23 PM
Re: Yet Another Target
I agree that not all people will want a driveless car. Specially, here in the United States where there is a huge culture on driving your own car.  The whole experience here from the minute you are a teenager is getting a license, owning and driving your own car.  I can see a driverless tracker for farmers or a driverless tank for soldiers. I think these vehicles will make more sense. 
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 6:17:21 AM
Re: Yet Another Target
@Pedro I agree with you on this aspect. But i believe that the insurance should be for the users not the builders. I think these cars are liable to go faulty. We are to rest assure that there is always a compromise with these kind of things. You need to enjoy with some risks. I also agree that these cars might be seen in low numbers at different areas but there mass usage is still some long way to go. I am not sure if these cars will able to completely satisfy their users.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 5:37:34 PM
Re: Yet Another Target
May be Google may introduce google insurance, a way to protect its engineers once their devices become faulty.  I don't see what Google can do if people have accidents on their cars, may be give them a free Chromebook.  May be they could partner with Geico or State Farm have a special insurance.  I guess we won't be seeing these types of cars driving our streets any time soon.
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
5/28/2015 | 5:14:22 PM
Re: Yet Another Target
Pedro,

From what I can tell it's not about the speed you can go in the sports car, it's how cool you look in it. it's the same reason that the southeastern U.S. is filled with Ford 350's. It's all about the image.

 

The liability issue is a good question. Normally I would be at fault becasue I was in control of the car. It seems if a computer is driving, the computer makers, the hardware and software guys would be at fault. Somehow I don't see Google offering to pick up the tab on accidents for their computer driven cars.
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
5/23/2015 | 12:44:23 AM
Re: Yet Another Target
@ Daniel you are right there. I feel that we human beings are accustomed to feel comfortable once we know that the vehicle is humanly controlled. How much sophisticated the auto car gets, the complete satisfaction ond complete fear free travel will not be there or not for some forseable future. Take aircraft as an example. Will you be feeling comfortabe if you know that there is no pilot in the aircraft. I believe how much advance we get we will not be able to get that fear out from our mind for some time to come.
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
5/23/2015 | 12:39:48 AM
Re: Insurance
@Thomas I agree with you point of view. I think that there are not always situations when doing right will get you through. Sometimes you have to do wrong to corect the wrong. I think you can understand my point of view. I belive that these cars will be very sophistcated in doing every thing to perfection and right but what about wrong?
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
5/22/2015 | 10:19:20 PM
Re: Yet Another Target
I find it really strange that many young lads get sports cars.  I live in the north east of the United States.  The traffic that we have isn't made for sports cars.  The traffic is terrible.  It is bumper to bumper during peak time hours.  I would think unless you live in germany and drive in the autobahn then it is worth to have a sports car.
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
5/15/2015 | 7:17:36 AM
Re: It's a good thing computers never fail...
@vcole829: it is a very interesting observation, I think in extreme situation this car will be able to differentiate between an animal comes suddenly in front of the car or a kid. Normally, in both cases the reaction of the driver can be different and keeping in mind the reaction time he would have.
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