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Google self-driving car
Google self-driving car

Google’s self-driving cars have had a fairly solid safety record so far, but this week, the company reported its first-ever injuries when the Google car was rear-ended by another driver.

Project lead Chris Urmson took to Medium about the accident, which occurred July 1:

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.

The AP reported that the three Google staffers in the self-driving car complained of minor whiplash and were taken to the hospital. The driver of the car that rear-ended the Google car also complained of neck and back pain.

Google has a pretty nice safety record, reporting in June that “In the six years of our project, we’ve been involved in 14 minor accidents during more than 1.8 million miles of autonomous and manual driving combined. Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.” This news comes despite that rumored close call with the Delphi self-driving car in late June, which both companies later denied.

Urmson’s post has some pretty alarming statistics about human nature and driving.

But we’re now driving enough — and getting hit enough — that we can start to make some assumptions about that real crashes-per-miles-driven rate; it’s looking higher than we thought…It’s particularly telling that we’re getting hit more often now that the majority of our driving is on surface streets rather than freeways..the clear theme is human error and inattention.

I’m with Urmson on this one. A self-driving car has to be safer than half the idiots on the I-5 on any given day. It’s also a nice reminder to check your own behavior (texters, phone talkers, GPS fiddlers, etc.) and make sure you are paying attention.

Watch a Google rendering of the accident below:

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