Google Inc. self-driving cars are getting smarter with each passing day as they gather tons of data on real-world driving situations. Google reports that its self-driving car prototypes are heading to the streets of Austin this month. 25 self-driving Lexus RX450h SUVs have already begun road tests in Austin and Google is adding its cute Panda-like self-driving cars in the data-gathering phase on Austin roads.
Chris Urmson, Program leader for Google’s self-driving cars given insights about the project in the firm’s monthly report for self-driving car project. He notes that the firm’s self-driving cars are current having an average of 10,000 autonomous miles per week on public streets. Since the project began in 2009, it has logged 1,158,818 miles on autonomous mode. Google’s self-driving cars are still a couple of years away from public use but Urmson notes that he doesn’t want his son (currently 11) to need a driving license.
Another rear-end collision reported
An important point to note in the report is the low number of accidents that Google cars have reported up to date. The firm noted “in the six years of our project, we’ve been involved in 16 minor accidents during more than 2 million miles of autonomous and manual driving combined. Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.”
The last accident involving a Google self-driving car was on August 20. The firm reported that a Google AV operating in self-driving mode began slowing down to yield to a pedestrian. However, the test driver on board followed protocol in taking over manually, only to break too hard. The hard breaking led to a rear end collision by the vehicle at the back who clearly didn’t leave enough space between itself and the AV.
A replay of the event shows that the car would have stopped safely if the autonomous mode was left to handle the situation. The firm notes “our software might have created some extra margin in a situation where fractions of inches and seconds mattered”.
Google is ahead of the curve in the AV race
Google is leading the pace across many technologies and its lead in the AV race is clear. Apple is a decade away from having its AV as Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster notes that Apple car is car is “closer to 10 years away than 5 years”. Tesla is working on autonomous capacities for its EVs but Elon Musk says its cars are not yet at the point where you can enter, fall asleep, and wake up at your destination.