Tesla is not the only autonomous vehicle to be involved in accidents. One of Google’s driverless Lexus cars has been involved in a nasty crash in Mountain View, California, the company said in a statement. Fortunately, no humans were hurt. However, pictures taken at the site show that the right side of the self-driving car was seriously damaged.
Fault of the Human Driver
Google’s self-driving cars are not strangers to accidents. However, in the past, the autonomous cars have only gotten involved in minor accidents.
Google’s statement read that the car was involved in the “worst accident yet” for the brand. Unlike Tesla vehicles, Google’s self-driving cars have not been available to the public. That certainly decreases the risk of getting involved in headline-making fender benders.
The crash occurred on the corner of W El Camino Real Street and Calderon Avenue. According to Google, the self-driving car was going north on Phyllis avenue. A human-driven car on El Camino Real Street had run a red light and collided with the Google vehicle. As this version of the events goes, the fault is entirely of the human driver.
The human driver or human passenger in the autonomous vehicle was unhurt. Airbags were deployed in time, the Google statement further said. The Lexus, though, had its whole right door smashed in and several windows broken.
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The Google statement even cites a witness who said that the self-driving car was not at fault, but the other vehicle was. Google emphasized their point in the statement by pointing out that ignoring red lights is the leading cause of road accidents in the U.S. A good majority, close to 94%, of these crashes are the fault of human error. This is exactly the reason roads need self-driving cars, the statement did not hesitate to mention.
Interestingly enough, earlier this year, another Google self-driving Lexus had met with a minor incident involving a bus, also along El Camino Real.
The Google Self-Driving Car Project
Once thought to be the only viable self-driving car project, Google is slowly losing the race to the likes of Tesla and now Uber. In the past, the project has been in the news for losing engineers to rival projects like Uber’s.
Currently, the project is testing 58 autonomous vehicles. The fleet comprises of a number of modified Lexus vehicles and in-house built “pod” cars. Google self-driving car tests are currently underway in Texas, Arizona and Washington. Last month, the vehicles clocked a total of 170,000 miles driven, about 126,000 done without human input.
126,000 miles driven is equivalent to a decade of human driving, done in just 31 days, Google pointed out. During this period, Google self-driving cars were involved in only two minor collisions at low speed. In one accident, a second vehicle had rear-ended the self-driving car.
Google records only a single accident where one of the company’s autonomous vehicles had been at fault.
Safety of Self-Driving Vehicles
As more and more companies have begun testing periods to introduce autonomous vehicles on the road, safety has become a major issue. Even the U.S. government, which has taken a laissez faire approach to regulating the autonomous car industry, has maintained a strict stance on safety.
Despite what autonomous car makers claim, it’s not always human drivers who are at fault. The autopilot in many of these vehicles is not as safe as it should be. Tesla’s autopilot is known to be at fault for at least one fatal crash.
The problem is that the computer vision that autonomous cars are equipped with is not as keen as the human eye in distinguishing road obstacles. Though advertisements for self-diving cars indicate that’s its perfectly all right for a driver to take his or her hands off the steering wheel, according to engineers who have been involved in self-driving car projects, it’s not. It seems that fully autonomous vehicles still have a long way to go.