Google records 11 accidents in 1.7m driverless car miles

Project director Chris Urmson boasts about Google's safety record

Google's fleet of more than 20 self-driving cars have been involved in 11 accidents, the search giant has revealed.

The data, released by the project's director Chris Urmson in a blog post on Backchannel, describing them as "minor" incidents with "light damage" and "no injuries".

He also noted that "not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident" in any of the collisions, which occurred over 1.7 million miles driven by the autonomous vehicles - a million when no-one but the car was in control.

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The majority of these collisions were caused by other drivers hitting the cars from behind, and Urmson highlighted intersections as "scary places" where many serious accidents occur.

Google claims that its safety record is a result of advanced sensors, which can "keep track of other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians out to a distance of nearly two football fields".

The cars have also been programmed to account for human error in other road users. They will pause briefly after a traffic light turns green as "that's often when someone will barrel impatiently or distractedly through the intersection".

Google has been test-driving its fleet rigorously: Urmson claims that they're now averaging around 10,000 self-driven miles a week.

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Compared with the fact that that's almost as much as the average US motorist drives in a year, a record of just 11 crashes seems pretty remarkable.

Following instructions from the USA's Department of Motor Vehicles, Google was last year forced to add brake pedals and a steering wheel to its cars in order to make them safe for driving on California's roads.

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Guest editor's view

TechUK CEO Julian David says: A total 1.7 million miles and only 11 accidents - that certainly puts me to shame! And the fact that none of them was the fault of the digital car does show that technology can solve the challenges of modern living. It also provides some new justification for the traditional cry from IT professionals facing system problems - it's the users who are to blame!'

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