Google: Our self-driving cars would be tip-top if you meatheads didn’t crash into them

First progress report pins blame on dumb humans

Google's self-driving car engineers have released their first progress report, and they said they will publish monthly updates from now on.

"We’ve made a lot of progress with our self-driving technology over the past six years, and we’re still learning," the report [PDF] stated. "Every day we head out onto public streets so we can keep challenging and refining our software. Here are some highlights from our recent testing; all metrics are as of June 3, 2015."

To date, Google has 23 Lexus RX450h SUVs fitted for self-driving and the cars have completed 1,011,338 miles via software control and 796,250 miles with humans doing the driving. Most of the time the cars have been patrolling around Mountain View, but Google has nine prototypes that are still restricted to a private track.

This first report details the 12 accidents the automated vehicles have had on the road. Google stresses that none of the incidents were the fault of the software, but were down to driver error on the part of other drivers.

Seven of the accidents in autonomous mode involved other cars rear-ending the Google vehicle, usually at very low speed. Two more were down to other cars not obeying stop signs, and in one of the latter cases the autonomous car detected the approaching vehicle and its software tried to brake to avoid the collision.

Only one of the autonomous-mode accidents reported could be described as a dangerous incident. In March 2013, one of the cars was cruising down Interstate 680 at 63mph when it was sideswiped by another car trying to change into its lane. No one was injured but the robo-car was damaged in the incident.

Humans were responsible for the other two incidents, too, but in these cases Google's drivers were to blame. In both cases, the Google car rear-ended the car in front while under human control – and once it was while a Google employee had borrowed one of the cars to run an errand. That employee's annual review must have been interesting.

The report also highlighted some of the smarter aspects of the cars' software. Google cars can identify emergency vehicles, for example, and automatically give way in a fashion many fleshy drivers are irritatingly unwilling to do.

The other example given was Google cars dealing with cyclists who didn’t obey the rules of the road. One cyclist veered in front of the car at night, and the software was clever enough to stop immediately to avoid a crash.

Google said that its cars will complete 10,000 miles of software-controlled miles a week from now on, and that new accidents will be reported as they happen in forthcoming monthly updates. ®

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