Google blames careless humans after first driverless car injury
Google has said the first injury involving a driverless car was down to a careless driver slamming into the back of one of its vehicles.
On Thursday, Google revealed that three of its employees, who had been riding in one of its driverless Lexus cars, were taken to hospital with minor whiplash after a car rear-ended it at traffic lights in Mountain View, California, earlier this month.
It was the 14th accident in six years and almost 2 million miles of testing. Chris Urmson, who leads the company's driverless car project, said not a single accident had been caused by Google's cars.
"Our self-driving cars are being hit surprisingly often by other drivers who are distracted and not paying attention to the road. That’s a big motivator for us," he wrote in a blog post. "The most recent collision... is a perfect example.
Urmson released a video showing how the crash appeared to the car, which uses a number of sensors to interpret the environment around it.
Self-driving cars have raised fears that the technology would make mistakes, resulting in injuries or road deaths. However, Urmson said the statistics were starting to show that Google's cars were significantly safer than human drivers.
In the most recent collision, the car had failed to break at traffic lights, and had hit the back of the Google vehicle at 17 miles per hour.
"Other drivers have hit us 14 times since the start of our project in 2009 (including 11 rear-enders), and not once has the self-driving car been the cause of the collision," Urmson wrote.
"Instead, the clear theme is human error and inattention. We’ll take all this as a signal that we’re starting to compare favorably with human drivers.
"Our self-driving cars can pay attention to hundreds of objects at once, 360 degrees in all directions, and they never get tired, irritable or distracted."
The car in question was a Lexus SUV. Last year, Google said a more compact, bubble-shaped vehicle would hit the roads for testing this year.