The weekend was not so good for Google self-driving car as it was involved in the worst accident ever since public testing of the autonomous vehicles started last year.
On the other hand, it could also be viewed as good news for the driverless cars as most reports confirmed Google’s driverless car was broadsided by a van that ran a red right.
This is what a self-automated, hi-tech car can never prevent: accidents caused by humans driving regular cars. So no mater how perfect the cars are built, accidents are bound to happen.
The accident occurred right in Google’s patch in Mountain View California. A Google employee was in the car when the accident happened.
The other car involved was a van. Apparently, from eye witness reports, the van refused to stop for a red light and broadsided the passenger side of the Google driverless car that was in auto mode. The Google car couldn’t initiate any evasive action and the van could not help but hit the car even though the driver applied the breaks.
Fortunately, nobody was injured from the accident. But it is safe to assume that the passenger in the Google car must have been seriously rattled by the impact. The picture (shown above) of the car clearly indicates that anybody in the car must have been very lucky to escape with major injuries.
The news of the crash came in a weekend where the self-driving car community should have been celebrating. The information, all the way from Singapore, of the launch of the first driver-less taxis was really heart-warming. The test project is a collaboration between MIT funded nuTonomy and Grab, the so-called Uber of the far East.
As earlier stated, it would be easy to spin this as good news both for Google and driverless cars. This should be another cog in the argument that self-driving cars are safer than cars with humans being behind the wheels.
The simple reason is this: there are so many variables that lead to accidents when a human being is driving. All these variables are collectively called human errors which are absent in automated vehicles.
This is not the first time a Google self-driving car is involved in a car accident. The first one caused the biggest news because it was the first time it happened to a completely automated car. And of course, there was the potential that if the accident was the automated car’s fault, that would have been big news.
And it would have been a good opportunity to write several pieces about how technology is overrated and how nothing beats good old fashioned mode of driving.
But like the current case, the March accident was the other vehicle’s fault.
In that incident, a bus was involved. The investigations showed that the bus jumped lanes and it was almost impossible for the Google driverless car, moving at a sedate 2mph, to evade the bus, .
Google released this statement to 9to5Google following the latest accident:
A Google vehicle was traveling northbound on Phyllis Ave. in Mountain View when a car heading westbound on El Camino Real ran a red light and collided with the right side of our vehicle. Our light was green for at least six seconds before our car entered the intersection. Thousands of crashes happen everyday on U.S. roads, and red-light running is the leading cause of urban crashes in the U.S. Human error plays a role in 94% of these crashes, which is why we’re developing fully self-driving technology to make our roads safer.”
I think the world should by now accept the fact that accidents involving automated and regular vehicles would always happen. But some mischief makers are waiting for the accident that can be remotely blamed on these driverless cars to bring out long-sharpened knives and tear the reputation of these cars to shreds.
What happened to Tesla after some of their automated cars were involved in accidents readily comes to mind.
image credit: thenextweb.com; engadget.com; forbes.com; computerworld.com