Google’s self-driving car caused its first accident on Valentine’s Day and it made headlines across the internet. Both the initial accident and Google’s admission of fault trended on Twitter and Facebook. Despite the low impact nature of the accident, it caused concerns about the safety of self-driving cars and related safety mechanisms.
The accident happened as the Google car attempted to merge back into a lane of traffic while a city bus approached. The test driver believed the city bus would allow the car to merge; the bus driver had other ideas. The collision happened at 2 miles per hour. There was no significant damage and no injuries. Studies have also attempted to show that self-driving cars have been involved in a higher accident rate than human driven cars, although the study’s methods raise questions as to its credibility.
Public Reaction To The Google Car Accident
Generally speaking, these fears are overblown. In 2015, Google self driving cars traveled over 1.7 million miles without causing an accident. (The cars were involved in twice as many accidents as one would expect for a human driven car traveling that distance, but all those accidents were the fault of other drivers. Google’s team blames the higher accident rate on the car’s insistence on following the rules of the road.) Google has also reported a number of “disengagements” - situations in which the test driver assumed control of the car to avoid an accident (13 times in 2015) or due to a failure of the system or sensors involved.
Are Self-Driving Vehicles Close To Implementation?
The components in self-driving cars will almost certainly face a gradual release into the market. The first stage of that release involves the roll-out of sensoring-reacting systems, systems meant to brake quickly or avoid collisions when sensing imminent danger. This is already happening to some degree, like with vehicle avoidance systems in tractor trailers.
These devices have shown a significant ability to reduce accidents, whatever the recent headlines on the safety of self-driving vehicles. Adopting these technologies can help companies control their loss exposure and obtain better rates on their insurance policies.