Recent years have seen computers aiding us in driving in many different ways. Many cars now have GPS units built in. Those without can use their smartphones or buy third party GPS units. Some newer cars now have parking assist which allows the car to parallel park itself for you. Add in rear camera motion sensors and auto-braking technology and cars now are easier to drive and safer than ever. However, it looks like self-driving cars are still a thing of the future, not the present.
There are several different companies developing a version of a self-driving car with Google the most prominent of them. The hype surrounding self-driving cars has been immense, but recent reports citing a number of accidents involving self-driving cars has dampened expectations.
Google has tested more than 50 different self-driving cars, but a recent report has shown that those cars have been involved in 11 car accidents. This immediately made people wonder about the actual safety of the cars and reliability of the technology behind the cars. Since the report, Google has released data to help put those accidents into perspective.
In a blog post responding to the news Google’s Chris Urmson, director of the Google car program, stated that all the accidents had been minor in nature with very light damage and no injuries. He also pointed out that these 50 cars have traveled more than 1.7 million miles since the inception of the program and that only four of the cars have had any kind of accidents (this makes us assume these cars have each had multiple incidents). He went on to explain the breakdown of the self-driving car accidents. Seven of them were instances where the Google car was read ended, two were side-swipes and one occurred when another car rolled through a stop sign. In short, he explains, most of these accidents have likely not been the fault of the self-driving car, but of other drivers.
There is no doubt that many people would be interested in a self-driving car. The best estimates are that the first self-driving cars may be available to the public somewhere in the range of 2017-2020. There are still many questions surrounding them including the overall safety of the cars as well as liability of an accident. If a self-driving car were to cause an accident who is liable? The owner? The company that made it? Likely it will be a decision left up to the courts.
Although self-driving cars may be a reality in the near future, for now we will have to stick with driving the car ourselves and just allow the GPS to guide us and the car to help us park.