Critics of self-driving vehicles often cite safety as their main concern, and many were crying foul after the details of each individual accident was not released to the public.
John Simpson of the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog told the Associated Press he’s worried about Google's ultimate goal of a car without human controls, which could prevent a person from taking over if necessary.
This, according to Simpson, makes it "even more important that the details of any accidents be made public — so people know what the heck's going on."
Google’s self-driving car program director Chris Urmson was quick to address these concerns, explaining that the cars have not been at fault in any accident thus far.
“If you spend enough time on the road, accidents will happen whether you’re in a car or a self-driving car. Over the six years since we started the project, we’ve been involved in 11 minor accidents (light damage, no injuries) during those 1.7 million miles of autonomous and manual driving with our safety drivers behind the wheel, and not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident,” Urmson’s response on Backchannel reads.
Urmson also explained that these minor accidents, combined with looking at nationwide accident statistics, have been highly beneficial to improving the safety algorithm of the cars.
Urmson said that 21% of the fatalities and about 50% of the serious injuries on US roads involve intersections, and that pedestrians and other drivers are more often harmed than the person running the stop light. For this reason, Google has programmed their cars to briefly pause after a light turns green, in case someone runs the light.
“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. A self-driving car has people beat on this dimension of road safety. With 360 degree visibility and 100% attention out in all directions at all times, our newest sensors can keep track of other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians out to a distance of nearly two football fields,” Urmson added.