Alphabet Inc ‘s Google is marking its 18th birthday today and celebrations are in order. However, other than a giant balloon-animated doodle, Google is celebrating its 18th birthday under a dark cloud because it lost one of its self-driving cars in a serious crash over the weekend. Google is very transparent about the safety records of its self-driving car project and its crash records are in public domain. Its self-driving cars have been in a number of minor accidents – in most cases, human drivers of other cars were at fault.
However, nothing prepared Google observers, its self-driving cars, and onlookers for the crash that happened over the weekend. CBS reported that a van ran a red light smashed into the passenger side of Google’s self-driving car. The weekend crash marks the most serious crash yet for Google’s self-driving car project and it once again highlights the fact that human drivers can be bigger risks than computers behind wheels.
Here’s what we know about Google self-driving car crash
A statement from Alphabet Inc ‘s Google revealed that its self-driving car was heading north on Phyllis Ave. in Mountain View and that a van heading west on El Camino Real ran the red light at the intersection to crash into the Lexus SUV. Thankfully, the occupants of the van and the self-driving car were unhurt.
Google noted that the on-board computer actually made allowances for erring road users but that the driver of the van was just reckless. Part of the statement says, “Our light was green for at least six seconds before our car entered the intersection. Thousands of crashes happen every day on U.S. roads, and red-light running is the leading cause of urban crashes in the U.S.” As at August 31, Google’s fleet of 24 modified Lexus SUVs and 34 prototype vehicles have driven a combined 1,969,078 miles in autonomous mode.
Crashes are inevitable when humans are driving
A driverless future is no longer the stuff of sci-fi; tech firms and automobile firms are in a race to deliver a fully autonomous car. Nonetheless, the public and regulators understand that self-driving cars are still in developmental stage. The fatal crash involving Tesla’s Autopilot-driven Model S is a testament to the fact that riding in an autonomous vehicle might lead to serious injury, property loss, or death.
Nonetheless, Google claims that the numbers of crashes involving its robotic cars are small compared to crashes of piloted cars. The firm says, “thousands of minor crashes happen every day on typical American streets, 94% of them involving human error, and as many as 55% of them go unreported. (And we think this number is low; for more”
More so, Google maintains that the crashes are often a function of human error and that its on-board computers would rather play ”too safe” and err on the side of caution than make a reckless decision.
Google notes that “human error plays a role in 94% of these crashes, which is why we’re developing fully self-driving technology to make our roads safer.” However, inasmuch as humans still drive cars, one should expect crashes “given the time we’re spending on busy streets, we’ll inevitably be involved in collisions; sometimes it’s impossible to overcome the realities of speed and distance.”