A report on Monday claimed that Google’s self driving cars have been in three accidents since September. Google’s self-driving car program director Chris Urmson took to Medium to post his own explanation of the accidents, and actually provided insight into what his team has noticed on the streets.
Urmson said that, in the six years Google’s autonomous cars have been tested, they’ve been involved in 11 accidents. Not a single one was the fault of the autonomous vehicles, Urmson argued, noting that there was only light damage and no injuries. During those six years, Google’s autonomous cars have driven a total of 1.7 million miles, with a combination of manual and self-driving. Urmson argues that self-driving cars are much safer than allowing folks to drive by themselves, and points to human distraction as the primary reason for that.
“Our safety drivers routinely see people weaving in and out of their lanes; we’ve spotted people reading books, and even one playing a trumpet,” he explained, noting that “in any given daylight moment in America, there are 660,000 people behind the wheel who are checking their devices instead of watching the road.” Since autonomous vehicles are always paying attention, watching the roads from 360-degrees, they’re starting to seem a lot safer.
Urmson said Google will continue to “work hard on developing a self-driving car that can shoulder” the burden of distractions for us.