By Jeff Sanford
Mountain View, California -- July 20, 2015 -- It finally happened. One of Google’s self-driving test cars has been involved in a serious accident in which passengers were hurt.
The computer-directed vehicles have been zipping around Mountain View, California as a way of testing the ability to be “self-driving.” According to Google,
“One of our Lexus vehicles was driving autonomously towards an intersection in Mountain View, CA. 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.”
Google claims the braking was normal and natural. “The vehicle behind us had plenty of stopping distance — but it never decelerated. 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. The other vehicle wasn’t so lucky; its entire front bumper fell off.”
That is, the accident doesn’t seem to be the fault of the Google car. This accident was the result of human error. But it does seem as if there is going to be lots of work yet for collision repair centers. Some interesting points from online comments commenting on the reports about the accident: “These [cars] only work in Mountain View California where Google has 3D-mapped every square centimeter of outdoor space. There’s an enormous amount of legwork that needs to be done to make self-driving cars feasible anywhere. It’s far from just a matter of replacing the cars on the road,” said one commentor.
Says another, “Yes, we’re still at least a decade out from a viable, nationally capable autonomous car.”