Humans to Blame for Initial Problems with Self-Driving Car
The director of Google’s self-driving project announced today that, “Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.”
Tests for the self-driving car on California roads have resulted in about a dozen minor accidents during the past six years, but in every case human error was the cause of these accidents, Delphi Automotive and Google said.
No injuries were reported, according to both companies. The accidents became public after the Associated Press examined state records regarding the companies and the cars, which must be filed in order to test the vehicles on public roads. The filings became mandatory in September.
The exact number of accidents isn’t clear. Google acknowledged 11 accidents; Delphi admitted to 1.
Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving project, wrote in a blog post that his company’s 11 accidents involved “light damage, no injuries.”
“Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident,” he wrote.
Kristen Kinley, a spokeswoman for Delphi, an industry leader and maker of automotive parts and components, said in an interview with Fortune, “these are engineering vehicles. You can’t get from A to B – to driverless cars – without a lot of testing. Driverless is still a long way off.”
As digital automotive safety technology improves, engineers are increasingly convinced that computers one day will replace drivers, creating a transportation system that is far safer than today’s. Cars already can be equipped with sensors that can keep a car in its lane, brake to prevent a rear-end collision and detect pedestrians and bicyclists.
Yet few of the owners of the 250 million or so vehicles registered on U.S. roads have yet experienced even partially autonomous systems. The Boston Consulting Group, in a study released in January, forecasted “partially autonomous vehicles are likely to hit the roads in large numbers by 2017.”
In early April, Delphi’s autonomous Audi drove 3,400 miles from the west coast to New York, 99 percent of the distance without a driver controlling the self-driving car. The test was undertaken to demonstrate the vehicle’s capabilities.
“Many people don’t realize how far along some of these technologies are,” said Xavier Mosquet, leader of BCG’s automotive practice in North America, in the January report. BCG predicts that the technology will be “highly attractive to both carmakers and their customers.”
But first the public must be convinced that the computers, sensors and software that control these new machines will do a better job of keeping it safe and sound.