Google’s self-driving car project has been the victim of minor car accidents before, but this time, the car was not the only one injured in the incident.
Chris Umson, the director of Google’s driverless car program, took to his blog to post about what happened in the Jul. 1 collision. He writes to explain that one of Google’s autonomous test vehicles (a Lexus SUV equipped with Google’s self-driving technology) was stopping at a green light where traffic had backed up up at an intersection in Mountain View, California.
Another car failed to break as it came up behind the Google vehicle, hitting the back of the vehicle at 17mph.
“Our self-driving cars are being hit surprisingly often by other drivers who are distracted and not paying attention to the road,” Umson writes on his blog.
Although there were some injuries in this most recent incident, they were only minor ones.
“Thankfully, everyone in both vehicles was okay, except for a bit of minor whiplash, and a few scrapes on our bumper. The other vehicle wasn’t so lucky; it’s entire front bumper fell off,” Umson reports.
A qualified driver is required by California law to be behind the wheel of a self-driving car being tested on public roads, and the The Associated Press reports that the driver and the two passengers in the Google car were taken to a hospital following the accident and cleared to return to work.
Google reports that its self-driving cars have been involed in 14 previous minor accidents in their past six years of testing. This is the first time an injury has been reported. Google reassures the public that none of these accidents have been their fault, and majority were minor rear-end collisions like this one.
Chris Umson points out the positive side of these collisions on his blog.
“Although we don’t like getting hit, there’s a silver lining here. We all want to know how self-driving cars are measuring up against their human counterparts, but the statistics we need to do this simply aren’t ordinarily gathered,” Umson writes. “But we’re now driving enough—and getting hit enough—that we can start to make some assumptions about that real crashes-per-miles-driven rate; it’s looking higher than we thought. (Our cars, with safety drivers aboard, are now self-driving about 10,000 miles per week, which is about what a typical American adult drives in a year.)”
Umson continues on to explain the positive research that has come out of the company’s past accidents. Perhaps this happening will result in safer driving in the future. The Google driver-less car director, in light of the incident, urges drivers to be careful while driving, and to make sure they are paying attention so that incidents like these don’t continue to occur.
“Please, as you get behind the wheel this summer, keep your eyes on the road,” Umson asks of his readers. “The fight to end distracted driving starts with each of us—at least until that day when you can summon a self-driving car and just kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride.”