SHOCK! Robot cars do CRASH. Because other cars have human drivers
DMV reports all low-speed, Google says 'so far caused by human error'
Self-driving cars have put in hundreds of thousands of miles on California's roads and, according to the state's Department of Motor Vehicles, they have had four bumps and scrapes along the way.
In September 2014, California's DMV issued new guidelines that allow autonomous vehicles on state roads, as long as there's a human driver behind the wheel at all times to prevent a potential Blue Screen of Death turning fatal. So far, seven companies have put self-driving cars on the road, with Google having by far the largest fleet.
Unnamed sources familiar with the matter told AP that three of the four recorded fender benders involved Google's fleet of converted Lexus SUVs, with the other involving a car run by Delphi Automotive. Only two of the accidents happened when a car's autonomous systems software was in control, and none occurred at speeds over 10 miles per hour.
Delphi said that its accident occurred in October, when one of its 2014 Audi SQ5 cars was broadsided by another driver while waiting to turn left. The vehicle was under human control at the time, according to company spokeswoman Kristen Kinley.
Google told AP that, while it wouldn't discuss specific cases, its accidents were "a handful of minor fender-benders, light damage, no injuries, so far caused by human error and inattention." Since September, Google's cars have traveled over 140,000 miles on California roads.
That might not sound like a lot – particularly on the chaotic California roads, where drivers seem to think stopping distances are a quaint suggestion – but according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "property-damage-only crashes" are reported at a rate of 0.3 accidents per 100,000 miles driven.
Google pointed out that those figures might be off, since a huge number of minor crashes aren't reported to the authorities. Each of Google's self-driving cars is covered by a $5m insurance package.
If self-driving cars then are ever to become the norm, they need road-test time. Crashes are always going to happen, since fleshy human drivers make mistakes all the time, but the DMV will be taking a close look at all incidents before robot cars arrive on the roads en masse. ®