Google’s self-driving cars are busily racking up miles on public streets—roughly 10,000 miles a week with humans aboard to provide safety backup, according to Chris Urmson, head of Google’s autonomous-vehicle program. And in a blog post on Medium describing a low-speed crash involving a Google-modified autonomous Lexus on July 1, Urmson showed us what Google’s self-driving machines see when pesky human drivers crash into them.
Urmson explains how the scene went down:
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.
[O]ur braking was normal and natural, and 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.
This fits the picture painted by Urmson in a previous blog post describing Google’s self-driving car crashes: So far, Google says every one of its self-driving car accidents has been a minor fender-bender and that they’ve all been the fault of a human driver in another vehicle. Urmson reports 14 impacts since the project began in 2009, including 11 rear-enders. You can read Google’s monthly reports here.
More interesting to us, however, was the chance to see through the eyes of Google’s self-driving Lexus at the moment of the minor mishap:
Click the link below to watch the video