Google self-driving cars cover 1.7M miles, 11 accidents
Blog: “Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident”
After six years and 1.7 million miles covered, Google’s director of the self-driving car program has learned a number of valuable lessons about human error as it relates to traffic incidents.
Chris Urmson detailed what his group has learned in a May 11 blog post on Backchannel.
He reported that the fleet of 20-plus Google cars has covered all that ground – about 1 million miles autonomously, the remainder under manual control – and was only involved in 11 minor accidents resulting in light damage and no injuries.
“Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident,” Urmson wrote.
He gave an overview of the accidents: “We’ve been hit from behind seven times, mainly at traffic lights but also on the freeway. We’ve also been side-swiped a couple of times and hit by a car rolling through a stop sign. And as you might expect, we see more accidents per mile driven on city streets than on freeways; we were hit eight times in many fewer miles of city driving. All the crazy experiences we’ve had on the road have been really valuable for our project.”
Urmson presented some jarring statistics including the tally of 33,000 deaths on American roads each year and 660,000 drivers distracted by mobile devices behind the wheel at any given time.
“With 360-degree visibility and 100% attention out in all directions at all times,” he wrote, “our newest sensors can keep track of other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians out to a distance of nearly two football fields.”
Over the last several years, 21% of the fatalities and about 50% of the serious injuries on U.S. roads have been at intersections, Urmson wrote.
Inadvertently shifting lanes while turning is also a persistent problem, he said.
“These experiences (and countless others) have only reinforced for us the challenges we all face on our roads today. We’ll continue to drive thousands of miles so we can all better understand the all too common incidents that cause many of us to dislike day-to-day driving – and we’ll continue to work hard on developing a self-driving car that can shoulder this burden for us.”