Google’s driverless cars suffered 272 failures and were involved in 13 traffic accidents between September 2014 and November 2015, according to data released by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (CDMV).
The drivers monitoring the cars had to seize control of the vehicle nearly 300 times when the autonomous technology failed, but the figure is relatively small given the 424,331 miles of testing over the 14-month period.
Google has said that its driverless cars were not at fault in any of the 13 accidents, although a near-miss with another autonomous car in June 2015 suggests that Google’s autonomous systems are not flawless.
Furthermore, Google has a distinct knack of being able to blame the minor prangs on human error.
However, the CDMV report also shows that there were 69 incidents in which the person behind the wheel actively disengaged the autonomous system after identifying a potential problem.
There were 341 reported 'disengagements' over the period, but the data on the crashes and deactivations suggests that Google’s driverless cars are almost ready to exit the testing phase.
Road accident reports for the UK show that driver error is responsible for thousands of injuries and hundreds of fatalities every year, paving the way for debates as to whether humans are less capable of safe driving than autonomous systems.
Google has admitted that its drivers took control of the autonomous cars “many thousands” of times during the period, but these were not included in the CDMV report as they were not due to impending system failure.
Google emphasised that its drivers “err on the side of caution” in the testing process and that taking control of the vehicle is not necessarlity indicative of failures in the technology.
The UK now allows driverless car testing on public roads and Ford is pushing the limits of its autonomous car technology by carrying out tests in snowy conditions, so it is likely that the development of driverless car technology will only increase over the next 12 months.
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