The Highly Accident-Prone / Generally Quite Safe Robot Car
Since first hitting public roads three years ago, Google’s self-driving cars have now driven over 1.8 million combined miles. Four states now have laws allowing self-driving cars. Major suppliers are on board. With Google estimating that their vehicles will be available to the public sometime between 2017 and 2020, the age of self-driving cars is at hand.
The obvious question is: are they safe? The complicated answer is: they’ve gotten into a relatively high number of accidents…but, yes, they’re probably safe. According to The Guardian, who obtained the actual incident reports, the accident rate for Google’s self-driving cars has, in recent months, been ten times the national average.
However, not only are all of these incidents minor, but, upon further investigation, they don’t appear to be caused by Google’s cars. Instead, the other drivers–likely disoriented or distracted by a vehicle emblazoned with “Google” and “self-driving car”–are the ones at fault. In the most recent incident report, from this month, a Google vehicle was struck from behind 17 seconds after stopping at a traffic light. A Honda Accord just ran into it. “Google’s rash of rear-ends might just be a coincidence,” The Guardian writes, “but we shouldn’t expect people to stop driving into robots anytime soon.”