According to Chris Urmson, head of Google’s driverless car program, one of the company’s autonomous Lexus vehicles was involved in a rear-end collision while driving up to an intersection in Mountain View, California on July 1. The Associated Press reports this to be the first injury-producing accident a Google self-driving car has been involved in.
Urmson recently described the incident, “The light was green, but traffic was backed up on the far side, so three cars, including ours, braked and came to a stop so as not to get stuck in the middle of the intersection. After we’d stopped, a car slammed into the back of us at 17 mph — and it hadn’t braked at all.”
The following animation show’s the Google car’s computer recording of the incident.
He continued, “This certainly seems like the driver was distracted and not watching the road ahead. Thankfully, everyone in both vehicles was okay, except for a bit of minor whiplash, and a few scrapes on our bumper.”
According to Urmson, the self-driving cars regularly log 10,000 miles per week, and have travelled nearly 1.9 million miles in total. Since the start of testing in 2009, only 14 cars have been involved in minor accidents, of which none were claimed to be the cause of the accident by Google.
The figures stand as a remarkable record of autonomous driving performance. However, they do also show that even the best autonomous vehicles are hostage to uncontrollable forces.