Google’s Self Driving Car has Been in 11 Accidents

Self Driving Car

Self-driving vehicles still seem like a dream from the future. With exciting news coming out each month about the progress of self driving cars, one is left to wonder how safe these vehicles really are. Today Google has given us some great insight. In a post by Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving car program, Chris explained that Google’s self driving cars have been in 11 accidents. At first glance this seems like a lot, but when you factor in that Google has a fleet of 20+ vehicles and these vehicles have driven over 1.7 million miles, 11 accidents is phenomenal. (Heck, my wife and I have been in three accidents and we have not driven nearly the amount of miles Google’s cars have.) Here’s what Urmson had to say about these 11 accidents:

Over the 6 years since we started the project, we’ve been involved in 11 minor accidents (light damage, no injuries) during those 1.7 million miles of autonomous and manual driving with our safety drivers behind the wheel, and not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.

The fact that Google’s vehicles were not once at fault should help put your mind at ease. In Google’s 1.7 million miles, the company has observed quite a bit about us human drivers as well. Here are some interesting statistics:

  • Rear-end crashes are the most frequent accidents in America.
  • Google has seen more accidents per mile driven on city streets than on freeways.
  • In any given daylight moment in America there are 660,000 people behind the wheel.
  • Over the last several years, 21% of the fatalities and about 50% of the serious injuries on U.S. roads have involved intersections.

So are self driving cars really safer? In my opinion, they are; especially when you consider the human element of driving. Chris stated that in their 1.7 million miles of driving they saw cars weaving on the road due to people reading books and even once playing a trumpet! You’ve likely seen countless people texting, putting on makeup, or even watching movies while driving. With Google’s 360 degree visibility and 100% attention on driving in all direction all the time, there’s really no argument against Google’s self-driving car, or any data to suggest that the autonomous car is any less safer than the average driver.

If Google’s statistics are any indication, the introduction of mainstream self-driving vehicles are bound to make our roads safer.. We have discussed self-driving cars many times in our Podcasts, and we agree that when we get to the point when autonomous vehicles begin communicating with one other, the amount of accidents we see will be slim to none. A few accidents are inevitable as technology will never be perfect, but I’m far more comfortable in a self-driving car than riding passenger with a teen driver taking a selfie. 

What are your thoughts? Would  you feel safer in a self-driving car? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

About the author

Curtis eats and sleeps all things tech. He earned a Bachelors Degree in Information Technology, and enjoy's sharing with others ways technology can change their lives. Curtis has been writing about technology for just over 5 years. When not writing about tech, he can be found playing sports or enjoying the great outdoors.

3 comments on “Google’s Self Driving Car has Been in 11 Accidents”

  1. Darren Forster Reply

    The problem with robotic cars is the assumption that they make that everyone drives like a robot – perfectly, and no-one makes a mistake. For example in the UK some roundabouts have speed limits of 30mph whilst either side of the roundabout might be 60mph. At these roundabouts you tend to find that most motorists actually take them about 40-45mph, I know that means they’re speeding, but the concentration at that point for the driver to watch the speedometer slow down to 30 from 60, whilst also concentrating on the roundabout and then concentrating on leaving the roundabout and accelerating back up to 60 and making sure they are going the way they want to is so great that the speedometer bit gets ignored as it’s the least important of all those choices. However in a robotic car, the car might slow to 30mph for the roundabout and also assume that the cars on the roundabout are also doing 30mph (because in theory everyone should be sticking to that rule), and judge the gap to get on, on cars travelling at maximum 30mph – and as you can imagine based on that you could end up with a crash. Of course the robotic car isn’t at fault because had the other car been travelling at the maximum speed it would have worked, but this is the problem – not everyone sticks to the rules. It’s also the same with traffic lights, if your approaching a traffic light thats on green and the car opposite appears to not be slowing down, you wouldn’t assume that the car would stop, you’d slow yourself down and prepare to stop even though the light is on green – but a robotic car might not be able to anticipate this. The problem with robots is that it’s anticipating the unexpected – if every single car out there was robotically controlled then there really should be no accidents, but as everyone is different it means that robots have a lot harder job to judge what humans will do.

    One place I used to work there was a story of a guy who got skewered – the warehouse stored long strips of metal which were placed into the warehouse at points by a robot. There were big hazard signs around the area warning people that this area is robotically controlled and the robot must be turned off before entering the area. One person stupidly ignored all these warning signs and entered the area as a robot was about to put away a sheet of metal, the robot just carried on and put away the sheet of metal, skewering the person in the process, according to the robots programming it was just programmed to carry out the task, and ignore anything that might be in it’s way because if it is in it’s way it’s probably nothing of any significance as it assumed that humans would have stuck to the rules. Of course that doesn’t always happen.

  2. Anonymous Reply

    I totally agree with what you are saying and I am sure Google anticipated that, but 11.7 million miles and not one crash by the actual car pretty much makes the point in saying that the likes of that happens are… well for now, a 11.7 million to 1. And in the end I think most would feel a little better knowing there could be SOME cars following the rules.

  3. awadoozie Reply

    Wow! That’s amazing! I’m looking forward to going on road trips and not having to drive the car!! I think it’s fantastic!

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