Google’s autonomous cars were once again involved in accidents while out mapping the streets of Mountain View, Californa, But in both instances, as with the dozen or so previous incidents over years of testing, humans in other vehicles were at fault, according to Google.
The search company released its latest autonomous-car monthly report Wednesday, detailing two accidents in which drivers rear-ended their driver-less tech-equipped Lexus SUVs while stopped at a red light.
In one case, the offender hit Google’s Lexus at around five miles an hour, and caused damage to the rear bumper. In another, the speed was even slower and there was no damage.
Although Google was for years reporting its accidents to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, it had not broadcast that data publicly. But after pressure from activist organizations such as the Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project, it reversed its stance a month ago and created a website for a range of updates about its autonomous car project.
Self-driving cars continue to be the rage at both tech and automotive companies. Uber is busy building a stable of engineers lured away from robotics-focused Carnegie Mellon University, and Ford recently announced that it was moving its self-driving car efforts from a research project to a full-fledged engineering team.
This is the third time in a row Google’s self-driving vehicle has been hit by inattentive humans. So far, Google cars have logged nearly 2 million miles around the Silicon Valley suburb of Mountain View, where Google is headquartered. A few weeks ago, Google began sending its custom-made self-driving car prototype on recon missions. It differs greatly from the heavily modified Lexus SUVs, and features seating for two and no trunk space.
All Google cars must by law have drivers behind the wheel as a safety precaution. Typically, those drivers take control of the self-driving car only in instances in which unfamiliar traffic situations leave the car stymied.
“Given the time we’re spending on busy streets, we’ll inevitably be involved in collisions (because) sometimes it’s impossible to overcome the realities of speed and distance,” the report says. “In the six years of our project, we’ve been involved in 14 minor accidents during more than 1.8 million miles of autonomous and manual driving combined. Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.”