Self-driving cars are being sold to us as a way to reduce crashes, but it seems there is a way to go before humans hand over their keys to artificial intelligence.
Four out of the 48 self-driving cars in California have had an accident since permits for testing on public roads were handed out by the US state in September, according to a report by The Associated Press.
Two accidents are said to have happened while the cars were in control, while the other were the result of human drivers. All incidents happened below 10mph, with three of the cars belonging to Google and one to Delphi Automotive.
Both Google and Delphi said the accidents were minor and the self-driving car was not to blame. The former declined to go into further specifics.
All accidents must be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles, The Associated Press explained, but exact details are kept confidential, which is why the source familiar with all four crashes wanted to remain anonymous.
In a written statement, Google described the incidents as “a handful of minor fender-benders, light damage, no injuries, so far caused by human error and inattention”.
In its defence, Google’s cars have been driven approximately 140,000 miles in a relatively short space of time, the equivalent of 15 years of human driving.
With that said, property-damage-only crashes represent just 0.3 per cent per 100,000 miles driven in the US, according to official figures, making Google’s cars seem a bit accident prone – although the national average could be inaccurate as 5 million minor incidents are thought to never be reported.
The Delphi Automovive crash involved its 2014 Audi SQ5 being broadsided while waiting to make a left turn. The car was being driven manually at the time.
Google’s self-driving cars have, in fact, been involved in three other accidents since testing began several years ago.
As the saying goes, you have to break some eggs to make an omelette, but with driver safety such a big issue, how many mistakes can happen before the public sticks to a bit of old-fashioned human judgement and a steering wheel?