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Google’s self-driving cars involved in several minor crashes

Since September, there have been four reported incidents of crashes involving autonomous vehicles in California. One car was owned by Delphi while the other three were Google vehicles. All four accidents happened at speeds less than 10mph.
Forty-eight self-driving cars are currently licensed to drive on public roads in autonomous mode, although a human must still remain at the wheel at all times. The figures come courtesy of the Associated Press who became aware of them after being told by a person “familiar with the accident results.”
The Associated Press asked Google and Delphi for comment, alongside three other companies running self-driving vehicles in California. Google and Delphi claimed the incidents were minor and the cars were not at fault.
The Associated Press’ informant said two of the four accidents occurred while the car was operating completely independently of its driver. All of the incidents were apparently the fault of another driver although the exact circumstances of each one are unknown.
Google said in a statement that its cars were involved in “a handful of minor fender-benders, light damage, no injuries, so far caused by human error and inattention.”
The Consumerist points out that the four crashes in seven months means that the self-driving cars have a much higher crash rate than human drivers. Google claims its cars have travelled 140,000 miles by themselves, giving a statistic of three damage-only accidents every 140,000 miles. The national average is much lower at 0.3 accidents per 100,000 miles though.
Self-driving cars are controlled by a complex computer-controlled system of LIDAR radar arrays and depth-sensing cameras. They have knowledge of road networks and traffic systems and can identify other cars around them. Some have heralded them as the gateway to safer highways without the issue of human error.
The news could add credence to the arguments of people who are against autonomous vehicles though. Opponents often question how reliable a computer system can be when anticipating the actions of humans and there is also the issue of identifying who should be liable for the accident — the car or its driver.

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