Google Self-Driving Car Involved In Another Crash - InformationWeek
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7/18/2015
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Google Self-Driving Car Involved In Another Crash

Google's goal of bringing a self-driving car to America's roads hasn't been without its speed bumps, but the company's cars are not to blame.

New York Auto Show: Cool Cars With Hot Tech
New York Auto Show: Cool Cars With Hot Tech
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The idea of a car that drives itself once belonged to the realm of science fiction, but Google's efforts to make that fantasy a reality have hit some very real speed bumps.

The company's principal engineer and software lead for Google's self-driving cars wrote a blog post detailing the most recent collision, which occurred during the evening rush hour of July 1.

One of the company's Lexus vehicles was driving autonomously towards an intersection in Mountain View, Calif., outside Google's corporate headquarters.

The light was green, but traffic was backed up on the far side, so three cars -- including the Google Lexus -- 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. The clear theme is human error and inattention," Urmson wrote. "We'll take all this as a signal that we're starting to compare favorably with human drivers."

(Image: Google)

(Image: Google)

Urmson noted that none of the accidents in which people hit a self-driving vehicle resulted in a police report , even the July 1 crash, although the police were on-site. What's not that clear is why Google waited more than 15 days to report on the accident, even though most of the evidence shows that the accident was the fault of another driver.

"Our braking was normal and natural, and the vehicle behind us had plenty of stopping distance  --  but it never decelerated," Urmson explained. "This certainly seems like the driver was distracted and not watching the road ahead. 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."

This is not the first time Urmson has reported on the company's safety record when it comes to self-driving vehicles. In May, he wrote a blog post revealing that Google's self-driving cars had been involved in 11 minor accidents during the past six years.

However, Ursom was careful to point out that none of the accidents were the fault of the self-driving car, but rather of distracted drivers around the vehicle.

[Read more about the coming fight over self-driving cars.]

Despite the occasional fender-bender, Google shows no signs of slowing down when it comes to developing the program.

Earlier this month the company announced with a blog post that it has chosen Austin, Texas, as a new testing location for its self-driving car project.

One of the company's Lexus SUVs is there now, safety drivers aboard, driving a few square miles north and northeast of downtown Austin.

Google's fleet of more than 20 self-driving vehicles and its team of safety drivers have driven 1.7 million miles -- both manually and autonomously. The cars have self-driven nearly a million of those miles. They now complete an average of around 10,000 self-driven miles a week.

Even though driverless cars are still in their testing phase, a recent discussion at MIT found that CIOs and IT leaders should keep an eye on these developments, since it's never clear what emerging technologies could change how people interact with information technology.

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin. View Full Bio

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kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2015 | 8:13:30 AM
Why no reports?
My question is why exactly are no police reports filed? It seems if the fault was with the human driver, then that human driver would need a report for his insurance assuming he had any. I find the idea of taking the company's word with no official record by the police a bit off-putting. If smart cars are the future, shouldn't we make sure they have to fill out the same reports all the other car owners do just for verification on how they perform?
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
7/26/2015 | 9:51:42 PM
Re: Accident Reports
@Yalanand yes, it woudl be interesting to get an insider's perspective on how insurance companies are addressing this.
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
7/25/2015 | 12:09:26 AM
Re: Accident Reports
@ariella: interestingly there would a whole new dimension of insurance laws and policies while tackling the whole self drivable car thing. Mainly because if humans were involved then it would depend on witness answers and police report but when a self driving car is involved it it hard to determine exactly what the options were and what decisions were taken by the car prior to accident.
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
7/25/2015 | 12:04:35 AM
Re: Accident Reports
@ Donald: it probably is collecting all sorts of data but then what? Suppose Google hands out tenders to people who are willing to make a buck by having a self drivable taxi service, what would their insurance terms and operation policies be? For all we know that if a car is involved in a hit and run with a self driving car, no action would be taken against it because telemetry cannot determine Whether the driver was distracted or whether he did it on purpose.
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
7/24/2015 | 11:57:49 PM
Re: Accident Reports
What confuses me more is the fact that there were no police report. Does this mean that when the Google Car finally comes, police reports won't be filed for it because this is a self driving car? Insurance claims depends on police reports. You can't hope to get insurance if police is not preparing reports of the accident.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
7/20/2015 | 1:50:02 PM
Re: Accident Reports
@jastroff I've been wondering the same thing. Also will insurance rates be lower for a self-driving car because they are supposed to be less prone to human error? Or would the risk be based on the other drivers on the road, in which case it is more a matter of area? Actuaries will have to crunch through quite a number of variable to come up with answers and rates. 
DonaldM262
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DonaldM262,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/20/2015 | 9:11:33 AM
Re: Accident Reports
I would be exceptionally surprised if the Google car isn't constantly recording all sorts of telemetry data. Using that data, it would be trivial to establish what, exactly, happened in every incident, and from that, it would be quite clear as to why the human driver was at fault.

How it was handled by insurance would then be a matter of the insurance laws and policies of the two vehicles. Some states have "no fault" laws, but where I live does not.
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
7/18/2015 | 9:28:15 PM
Re: Accident Reports

@Jastroff a very valid question indeed. I am not sure that are these vehicles only made for a particular area or country. I am not sure if they are going to have its mass production or going to have its customized versions later. I hace soem doubts that these vehicles can hit the roads in large numbers very soon. But still I feel that its a good addition for those who cannot drive well or with some liabilities. Otherwise I might term it as a luxury not a necessity.

jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
7/18/2015 | 1:02:35 PM
Accident Reports
Great article @nathan. Question -- who gets charged or dinged on their insurance when this hits the real world? For insurance purposes it doesn't make a difference whose fault it was in terms of reporting it. The police on the scene need to clear things up as well in terms of fault. 

Where are insurance companies and law enforcement in the self-driving development cycle? Or, is the car never meant to hit the open road?

>> What's not that clear is why Google waited more than 15 days to report on the accident, even though most of the evidence shows that the accident was the fault of another driver.
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