Google To Offer More Transparency On Accidents Involving Its Self-Driving Vehicles

There was a slight stir caused back in early May when it was revealed that self-driving cars had been involved in four accidents on public roads during an eight-month. However, both Delphi and Google — the two companies who the four accidents were attributed to — denied that their vehicles were at fault in any of the accidents.

Google later provided further clarification, indicating that its self-driving vehicles had been involved in 11 fender benders over the course of 1.7 million miles of testing. And in each one of those 11 accidents, the self-driving vehicles were cleared of any fault. “We’ve been hit from behind seven times, mainly at traffic lights but also on the freeway,” said Chris Urmson, Director of Google's self-driving car program, in May. “We see more accidents per mile driven on city streets than on freeways; we were hit 8 times in many fewer miles of city driving."

Since we last visited this topic in May, Google’s accident count has climbed to 13 (although Google still maintains that its at-fault record remains clean).

Google Lexus RX450h
Google Lexus RX450h self-driving SUV (Source: Roman Boed/Flickr)

Instead of just providing information on accidents when requested (or when a story breaks in the media that might not get all the facts correct), Google is taking the step of being more transparent with its self-driving driving program. It has set up a new website which will provide monthly reports on all that’s happening with the Google self-driving car project.

Since Google’s reports have just recently kicked off, there’s only one month’s worth of data currently available, and that’s for the month of May (PDF). But even that one report (which contains information that is current as of June 3) has a wealth of information to look over. Google has a fleet of 32 self-driving vehicles — 23 are Lexus RX450h hybrid SUVs that have been converted to autonomous duty, while nine are Google prototypes that are limited to closed test track driving.

In addition, the report shows that Google is logging on average 10,000 autonomous miles per week on public roads, which far surpasses any other company conducting the same research. You will also find a detailed description of every single accident involving one of Google’s self-driving vehicles on public roads, which should give the motoring public a bit of reassurance to the safety of its vehicles and how thick-skulled human drivers can be sometimes.

We have to tip our hats to Google for taking this step with regards to its self-driving vehicle project. Self-driving vehicles are definitely the future, and Nissan CEO Carlo Ghosn has vowed to have consumer-purchasable, fully-autonomous vehicles on the road by 2020. Now whether federal and state regulations will be up to par in less than five years to make this dream feasible remains to be seen.