May 12th, 2015

google self-driving car

“Self-driving cars? Madness! What happens when the cars get hacked? Or the electric circuitry gets all weird? Or, even worse, they become sentient evil beings? These cars must be banned before they even hit the road!”

Those are the lines we imagine many people have had run through their heads when they first heard Google was working on self-driving vehicles, but Google’s cars have actually proven to be much safer than many people could have anticipated. Head of the project Chris Urmson revealed that Google’s cars have only been involved in 11 accidents in the past 6 years.

While that number alone should be low enough to quell fears, this fact should drive that point home: none of the accidents were caused by fault of the vehicles, and they all resulted in 0 injuries and only minor damage. The most common cause of accidents were other drivers rear-ending the driverless cars, which Google says accounted for 8 of the 11 accidents.

Those are some pretty strong numbers to be able to tout, and Google’s sure to keep it in their back pocket should they ever face strong resistance from road regulators due to questions of safety.

Other choice statistics from Urmson’s latest blog post:

  • Google self-driving cars have traveled a combined 1.7 million miles in testing combined
  • Of the 1.7 million miles, nearly 1 million were autonomous, the rest being manually controlled by the test drivers
  • Google is averaging 10,000 self-driven miles per week, which is just less than a typical American drives in a year
  • Driver error causes 94% of road crashes
  • In America, 660,000 people at any given moment have their attention split while behind the wheel (texting, calling, eating, etc)
  • Meanwhile, Google’s self-driving cars have 100% of their attention focused over all 360 degrees of their surroundings

You can read Urmson’s full post over at Medium right now if you’re interested in a deeper look at how their self-driving car project has evolved to become one of the most safe driving experiences on the road today.

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