Google Pushes Ahead With Self-Driving Cars Tests

Automotive

Published on May 21st, 2015 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez

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Google Pushes Ahead With Self-Driving Cars Tests

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Google has spurred intense public interest in self-driving cars since it started testing their fleet six years ago on the streets and highways around its Silicon Valley headquarters. Its fleet of cars, which have a trained driver at the wheel in case something goes awry, now travel 16,000km per week in self-driving mode.

Google’s self-driving cars have been involved in 11 accidents but have not been the cause of any over the last six years since the project began. A team of drivers which is testing the fleet of more than 20 vehicles have driven 2.7 million km (1.7 million miles) so far. Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident, instead the cars had been hit from behind seven times, mainly at traffic lights, with a majority of the accidents happening on city streets rather than on highways.

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Google’s response to the accident report illustrates a major challenge facing the Silicon Valley technology giant as it races suppliers such as Delphi and Bosch and automakers such as Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan to develop self-driving cars.

Self-driving cars are seen as potentially safer than human drivers, as they do not drive drunk, fall asleep or fiddle with smartphones as human drivers do. Yet it may not be enough to be safer than humans. Computer-controlled cars may need to be nearly perfect for the public to accept them.

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Google said continuing to test its cars on public roads is crucial to its mission. The exact circumstances of Google’s crashes remain unclear. Two of the four crashes reported to the California Department of Motor Vehicles since September took place with cars in self-driving mode. The other two occurred while the cars were under human control.

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