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Photo via Flickr/Hydrogen/Google self-driving car
Photo via Flickr/Hydrogen/Google self-driving car

If you’ve ever wondered how safe those Google self-driving cars are, this piece by the director of the program on Medium’s Backchannel gives a pretty glowing report on Google’s driving record over the past six years.

The Google cars have been involved in 11 total accidents over 1.7 million test miles. None significant. Or caused by the Google cars.

Chris Urmson reports on data collected from Google’s “fleet of 20+ self-driving vehicles and team of safety drivers,” to date. The cars have traveled 1.7 million miles total (manually and autonomously combined), with the self-driving cars covering about a million of those miles.

Since starting the Google project, Urmson states that they’ve been “involved in 11 minor accidents (light damage, no injuries) and “not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.”

Photo via Google self-driving car maps
Photo via Google self-driving car maps

Of course, driver error causes most accidents, and Urmson cites the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s statistic that 94 percent of all accidents are caused by drivers. While he says that the Google cars and drivers have had some “crazy experiences,” they’ve also been able to identify “patterns of driver behavior (lane-drifting, red-light running) that are leading indicators of significant collisions.”

“A self-driving car has people beat on this dimension of road safety,” Urmson writes, citing that distracted drivers especially those on devices, are a huge problem. “With 360 degree visibility and 100% attention out in all directions at all times; our newest sensors can keep track of other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians out to a distance of nearly two football fields.”

The most common places for accidents? Intersections and turns.

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