Earlier this year Google announced that its autonomous vehicles had been involved in 11 different accidents over the hundreds of thousands of miles they’ve driven without a human taking control of the wheel. Although that might seem to crap on the idea of the cars being supremely safe, we were told at the time that these were just minor accidents and that they were mostly caused by people rear-ending the cars by driving too closely.
Clearly though this is an issue that hasn’t been fixed yet and perhaps needs some kind of warning for people to sit further back from automated cars, as they can seemingly brake at unexpected times. This week, another one of the automated vehicles was hit in the rear and co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin, has come out in public to defend the vehicles, suggesting that it isn’t their fault that these sorts of accidents keep happening.
“I’m very proud of the record of our cars. Our goal is to beat human drivers,” he said, highlighting that in many ways Google had achieved that. While arguably the cars are better at people at driving in idyllic conditions, they still struggle on winding roads, rural roads and when the weather is bad – all things that will need to be fixed before a commercial vehicle is released.
Perhaps this will only happen when Google switches to its own vehicles, like the smiling faced pod cars it unveiled last year. To date, it has only fitted the automation hardware to third party vehicles like Toyota’s Prius and some select Lexus cars. While they have done well, the fact that any accidents have occurred with them – even if it wasn’t their fault – has raised some eyebrows in the automotive industry and has made the public less secure with the idea of full vehicle automation.
Still, Google and many other firms are continuing apace with the development of the technology, with the first motorway only automated cars set to hit the roads sometime in 2017. Many companies are racing to be the first to put one on sale.
Cars that can drive themselves wherever they go, can be called via application and can even park themselves, will arrive sometime in the mid 2020s we’re told, though that could be brought forward if all of the technologies come together in time.
The question is, what do you think of the little accidents that Google’s cars keep having? The search giant insists that they aren’t the fault of the vehicle and are often so minor that no one would consider reporting them normally. Do you think a lot more work needs doing, or would you be happy at the potential of a minor rear-ender now and again?
Image source: Google, Thomas Hawk
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