Google acknowledges 11 accidents with its self-driving cars

“Google Inc. revealed Monday that its self-driving cars have been in 11 minor traffic accidents since it began experimenting with the technology six years ago,” Justin Pritchard reports for The Associated Press.

“The company released the number after The Associated Press reported that Google had notified California of three collisions involving its self-driving cars since September, when reporting all accidents became a legal requirement as part of the permits for the tests on public roads,” Pritchard reports. “The director of Google’s self-driving car project wrote in a web post that all 11 accidents were minor — ‘light damage, no injuries’ — and happened over 1.7 million miles of testing, including nearly 1 million miles in self-driving mode.”

“‘Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident,’ wrote Google’s Chris Urmson,” Pritchard reports. “Google has not made public any records, so both enthusiasts and critics of the emerging technology have only the company’s word on what happened. The California Department of Motor Vehicles said it could not release details from accident reports. This lack of transparency troubles critics who want the public to be able to monitor the rollout of a technology that its own developers acknowledge remains imperfect.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Seems like a pretty good record, actually.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]

40 Comments

    1. No they wouldn’t have hit anyone because they would just sit there restarting over and over with the dash board blinking “missing driver”.

    2. Yeah, well if Apple tried it, it’d work OK and they’d get millions of people on board. Then they’d simply abandon it leaving all said customers in the lurch, because some new trinket caught their attention. Unfortunately that’s become par for Apple. The take-away? Don’t get too ensnared in any Apple hardware or software as you will live to regret it.

      1. Wow, that sounds like a great description for a Samsung product.
        Two releases a year min and different features each time.

        Ps if Samsung is paying you, they should get their money back. Lol

      2. I’ve been purchasing Apple products for years now and have yet to regret it. I’ve had some complaints – sure – but my alternatives were Microsoft, Dell, and the Android platform (such as it is), or else doing entirely without modern technology.

        1. “…my alternatives were Microsoft, Dell, and the Android platform (such as it is), or else doing entirely without modern technology.”

          Why be so redundant?

      3. As an ex Aperture user, Pages user, iBooks user and iWeb user, I can agree with Mr. ‘.me’.
        More disturbing than the possibility of Apple doing self driving cars is the thought of medical pros getting excited about Health Kit.
        You KNOW that in about 18 months Cook’s Apple will be on something new and amazing, leaving people speculating about how much longer they’ll have to wait for meaningful updates…
        Please, tell me I don’t have a reason to be skeptical. I dare you.

        1. You don’t. QuickTime has been around for some twenty years and isn’t going anywhere. Plenty of other examples of critical Apple technology becoming global standard and living indefinitely.

          1. Precisely. We wouldn’t have desktop publishing, laser printers, USB ports, laptop computers, smartphones, etc. if Apple hadn’t created them and pushed them, taking the chance to advance technology.

            If left to companies like Microsoft, we’d still be using SCSI ports with dot matrix printers running MS-DOS on computers.

        2. Doc Rick, what utter garbage. Aperture is still in use, and Pages just received a major rewrite from the ground up to make the OS X and iOS versions fully compatible, plus it has received fairly regular updates since.

          I don’t know what your complaint is about iBooks, but any perceived lack of development surely has to do with the DOJ’s case and subsequent jerk off court-appointed nosy guy sitting in Apple’s offices billing them over $1,000/hr.

          Yes, iWeb was abandoned, but Apple in retrospect looks rather prescient because most web development tools have moved to cheap, easy-to-use websites anyway.

          I’m more than happy for Apple to “move on” to something new, like the iPhone, iPad, Watch, etc. But things that have been abandoned have been cut loose for a reason.

          Plus, I would much rather be an Apple car user who would receive regular software updates, be able to get repairs on my car when needed, and have recalls performed rather than be subjected to Android’s utter lack of updating, inherent insecurity, and wide variety of hardware junk which fails or becomes completely obsolete in 1-2 years.

          1. Aperture is officially abandoned by Apple. It still works but it will be just a matter of time until an OS X update breaks it forever. It’s “replacement”, Photo, is just a pile of poo aimed at undemanding iPhone users.

  1. Google’s goal is a car with no pedals or steering. This would certainly deter conventional car thieves and hijackers. There remains a risk of hackers commandeering them, I suppose, tapping into Uber and sending them as kidnap vehicles disguised as ride sharing. It sounds ridiculous but there has got to be some nefarious angle to all this, else why would Google bother? I take it as an axiom that they will never do anything for the good of mankind, only have the appearance of such.

    1. Google’s purpose of the self-driving car is for an autonomous taxi service (ala Total Recall) where, at the moment you enter the cab, facial recognition will match your features to a Google database, determine who you are, whether you are a new user of the service or previous user, offer ‘favorited’ destinations if it recognizes you or ask for a destination if not. It will recognize your voice for ‘security’ purposes while serving up advertisements across the entire dash and via head-up display, all tailored specifically to your previous Google searches, mail, Docs and more.
      That is, targeted advertising to a captive audience while cheerily voicing “Thank you for leaving the driving to the machine,’ as you depart.

      1. I could live with that service. I’d also like a dual-drive car, where I can control it, but after being dropped off at my downtown office, my car could drive away on its own to find a parking space.

  2. Props to Google for its hardworking and efficient…perception management team (were you expecting me to say “engineering”?)! I watch the news all the time and not once did I hear about an accident involving any of Google’s self-driving car. Conclusion: Google’s killing the story before it hits the press or the airwaves.

  3. Of course the tests are only arguably in real life conditions, they are mush more controlled than they would be if actually let loose. However the problem for me with this sort of technology is how well such a vehicle can anticipate the actions of others when as any driver knows that having passed a test doesn’t really show how good a driver you are its the next year or so when you by trial and error gain a capacity to take a scene in and anticipate the possible actions of other drivers in that scenario. A friend of mine had a number of accidents while working for a hire company and claimed none of them were his fault too but thats because he simply refused to learn about anticipation and develop that second sense you need in built up areas and thus as it wasn’t his vehicle just let the accidents happen. He was a bit miffed when he lost his job. I suspect that self driving cars will have a similar attitude to driving.

      1. How much “real-life” conditions can you have when self driving cars are only allowed in four states? Those million miles of real life driving had to have been very repetitious.

        1. Um, how many miles of roads do you think there are in California alone? I doubt they are using all of them but I also doubt that they have been any more repetitious than any other average driver’s usage.

  4. Not a bad record I guess but I’ve pulled approx 600,000 miles between 3 cars without a single accident since 1994.

    I’ll keep letting the computer between my ears to do my driving.

  5. If the numbers are correct, then it is an excellent safety record.

    There is no “computer between your ears” fast enough that can prevent fatality when a large SUV driven by a teen runs a red light at full speed when you’re entering the intersection. Not if the city buildings are obscuring your view of the side street.

      1. My point was exactly that (only the opposite): when somebody runs a red light, even the fastest computer in the smartest self-driving car can’t save you. In other words, self-driving cars can never achieve perfect safety record because they aren’t in traffic alone.

        This is not much different than auto-pilots on commercial aircraft. Current ones are more precise and accurate than human pilots, and most people don’t even realise when their plane has been flown by the autopilot (sometimes even for the entirety of the flight).

        The only problem I can see here is, once there is a first fatality involving a self-driving car, the project will come to an abrupt halt, no matter what. The litigious nature of a vast number of Americans lead to a near-demise of general aviation industry. By the end of 80, Cessna ceased production of small aircraft due to liability costs. In every single aircraft fatality, surviving family sued aircraft manufacturer (often successfully), even though in most cases the fault was entirely pilot’s. Some of these cases were patently absurd, yet juries emotionally often sided with the little guy against the ‘reckless’ plane maker… It wasn’t until the mid-90’s when US enacted a law that limited liability to 20 years of the life of the aircraft, rendering majority of existing small aircraft at the time out of that liability period.

        Self-driving cars are on track to get to the same liability situation. No jury will side with evil corporate Google when a pregnant woman dies after running a red light wile texting, and hitting a self-driven googlemobile…

    1. That’s a great question! It made me laugh out loud, literally.

      But, I believe the real question for you is, “Does that alcohol get anywhere near your vehicle’s ‘brain'”? If it does, don’t let it leave its designated parking spot until it dries out — and joins AAA (automotive alcoholics anonymous, not the historical AAA).

  6. “its own developers acknowledge remains imperfect”

    Beta or alpha testing over the last six years. There was no statement or news over the current state of the technology.

    1. They just happened to be in the same area at the same time and it was due to an unintended game of “chicken”. Each thought the other would stop. This was also before the existence of any driving regulations (let alone stop signs or traffic lights, etc.) and concepts such as “right-of-way” as applied to transportation.

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