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Google Reports 11 Self-Driving Car Accidents, Blame Other Drivers

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Google Self-driving car

One of Google’s self-driving cars
Photo: Saad Faruque

Following an AP story reporting that the Google self-driving cars have been involved in three accidents since last September (Google was required since September to report all self-driving car accidents), Google has come out with a total number of collisions: 11.

However, Google was far less forthcoming with details of the collisions. Instead, Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving car program, commented that all were “minor collisions” which resulted in no injuries.

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He said (in bolded letters, no less) that “not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.” He did add a little more detail: eight out of 11 collisions were on city streets, and the cars were rear-ended seven times, side-swiped “a couple of times,” and hit by one car rolling through a stop sign.

That’s about as far as detail goes, however. The accident reports themselves are confidential, Urman didn’t mention whether the self-driving cars were in self-driving mode or operated by the driver (required by law), and the Associated Press brought up a good point: “both enthusiasts and critics of the emerging technology have only the company’s word on what happened.”

Urmson was quick to point out that the Google cars have only had 11 accidents in about a million miles – about normal for a typical American driver. However, as written by Jon Healey of the Los Angeles Times, “[Advocates of self-driving cars] have to convince safety authorities that their technology can handle everything that idiotic human drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians can throw at it.”

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Or, in other words, self-driving cars have to be better than human-driven cars. Sadly for those who want to believe in Google and in the cause of the self-driving car, without details from an unbiased source (sorry, Mr. Urman), all that people can reliably hear is “11 collisions.”