Google Self-Driving Cars Log 300,000 Accident-Free Miles*
August 13, 2012 8:41 AM
*While under computer control at least
Ever since Google launched its
back in 2010, the company has been working out the kinks with self-driving cars. The ultimate goal is to create technology that allows vehicles to drive passengers to any location without driver input. Google is testing fleet of these vehicles in Nevada and California, and has recently announced that its self-driving vehicles have accrued over 300,000 miles.
During those 300,000 miles, not one of the vehicles has been in an accident, at least not when under computer control (one Google self-driving automobile was involved in an accident while under human control).
When the project was initially launched two years ago, Google noted that 1.2 million lives were lost each year in traffic accidents and the search giant hoped to develop technologies to help reduce the number of traffic fatalities. The national average accident rate in 2009 within the United States worked out to about .366 per 100,000 vehicle miles driven.
Google has given its cars an edge on the accident front by operating them in environments that are easy to tackle. For instance, Google's automated fleet drives on mostly dry roads in moderate conditions. Google does want to begin testing its vehicles in harsher conditions, such as snow in the future.
Analyst Brian Walker Smith from Stanford Law School says that it is still much too early to say unequivocally that automated vehicles are safer than human driven vehicles. "Google's cars would need to drive themselves (by themselves) more than 725,000 representative miles without incident for us to say with 99 percent confidence that they crash less frequently than conventional cars,” Smith concluded. “If we look only at fatal crashes, this minimum skyrockets to 300 million miles."
Automated vehicle technology still has a long way to go to win approval with drivers and state and local authorities. So far, Utah is one of the few states to allow automated vehicles to drive on public roads.
While fully automated vehicles may be a long way away, many automakers are starting to integrate technologies that will automatically stop a vehicle when an impending accident is sensed. Cadillac has also unveiled
that will steer a vehicle and operate the brakes and throttle in traffic.
"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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