“Accidents will happen whether you’re in a car or a self-driving car.”


In the six years that Google has been experimenting with self-driving cars, there have been a few accidents. But perhaps not as many as you might think.

On Monday, the director of Google's self-driving car program, Chris Urmson, took to Medium to explain that the company's autonomous vehicles have been involved in 11 accidents in the past six years. The disclosure followed a report by the Associated Press claiming Google has notified the California Department of Motor Vehicles of three collisions involving its self-driving cars since last September.

All 11 accidents were reportedly minor — Urmson described them as “light damage, no injuries.” And none were Google's fault. “Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident,” Urmson wrote. “We've been hit from behind seven times, mainly at traffic lights but also on the freeway. We've also been side-swiped a couple of times and hit by a car rolling through a stop sign.”

Until today Google had disclosed only three of these 11 accidents. The reason: the other eight had all taken place before last September, when reporting such collisions became a legal requirement for the tests on public roads. And the California Department of Motor Vehicles has not released any details from the accident reports to the public.

The takeaway, according to Google, is that the world is not a perfect place. Spend enough time on the road and you'll likely end up in an accident — regardless of how skilled a driver you, or your self-driving car, might be.

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