One of Google’s self-driving cars recorded its first accident involving minor injuries earlier this month.
During the evening rush hour on July 1, one of Google’s Lexus vehicles had slowed to a stop at an intersection in Mountain View, California. About three seconds later, a human-operated car slammed into the back of the Lexus.
Chris Urmson, the head of Google’s self-driving car program, wrote in a Medium post:
“The light was green, but traffic was backed up on the far side, so three cars, including ours, 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 video shows that the Lexus braked normally and the oncoming vehicle had plenty of time to stop before rear-ending the smart car.
None of the drivers in either car were seriously injured. Urmson reported that the drivers experienced minor whiplash, but no paramedics were needed and no police report was filed.
Urmson said that there have been 14 accidents, of which 11 were rear-enders, involving Google’s self-driving cars since the company started the project in 2009. According to Urmson:
“[…] not once has the self-driving car been the cause of the collision. Instead, the clear theme is human error and inattention. We’ll take all this as a signal that we’re starting to compare favorably with human drivers.”
Google’s cars are self-driving about 10,000 miles per week, equal to what the typical American adult drives each year.
Urmson ended his post by urging drivers to avoid distracted driving, “at least until that day when you can summon a self-driving car and just kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride.”