Google self-driving cars have gotten into more than a dozen accidents since the search-engine giant started letting them on the roads back in 2009. But none of them have been Google’s fault.
In a blog post published Thursday on Medium, Google (GOOG) self-driving car project director Chris Urmson tells the story of the company’s latest crash, which happened in California on July 1. According to Urmson, one of the company’s Lexus vehicles was approaching an intersection in which the light was green, “but traffic was backed up on the far side, so three cars, including ours, braked and came to a stop so as not to get stuck in the middle of the intersection.” As the self-driving car slowed to avoid this traffic, a car rear ended it. You can see a video simulation of the crash below:
Urmson argues that the crash is a perfect example of why self-driving technology would be beneficial for society. Unlike human drivers, who often operate vehicles when they are tired or distracted, computers never suffer from these flaws.
Urmson also points out that crashes like the one he describes are common in America but less well understood than more serious crashes that lead to injury or death. That’s because, Urmson writes, “National crashes-per-miles-driven rates are currently calculated on police-reported crashes. Yet there are millions of fender benders every year that go unreported and uncounted — potentially as many as 55% of all crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”
He argues that this means that the toll of bad human driving, at least in terms of money spent on repairs and aggravation, is perhaps even higher than the most widely reported statistics would have us believe.