Google’s Driverless Cars Are Safer than People

Google's Lexus RX 450h Self-Driving Car

Thanks to hundreds of thousands of miles of data logged on public roads, Google has quantifiable proof that their cars brake, accelerate and avoid obstacles much better than their human counterparts.

Research was delivered by leader of the driverless project, Chris Urmson, at a robotics conference in Santa Clara. Addressing some of the most influential people and businesses in the global robotic industry, he said, “We’re spending less time in near-collision states [and] our car is driving more smoothly and more safely than our trained professional drivers.”

During the studies, professional drivers were pitted against Google’s self-driven cars in an attempt to prove the efficiency and safety of the latter. True to form, results showed that when a human being was behind the wheel, their reaction times and reflexes paled in comparison to Google’s super cars – with the fleet of autonomous automobiles completing over 300,000 miles (500 000 km) accident-free.

In an amusing twist of fate, the only time a Google car has ever been responsible for an accident is when it was being driven by a person.

Since 2010, Google has been testing its cars on public roads, with a human in the driver’s seat in case of emergency. Since then, California, Nevada and Florida have adjusted their laws to allow tests of self-driving cars – although some cynics have claimed that legal problems will hinder Google in their attempt to commercialize the vehicle. After all, the law still considers sentience a driving essential.

If these driverless cars do make it beyond the pilot stage, it’ll be interesting to see how insurance companies respond. After all, a crash in a Google car would be the manufacturers fault, not the owners, and if an accident did occur, the cars collected data would prove who is responsible. This would not only make insurance claims a lot easier but it would make car insurance fraud a lot harder.

To give an example of this technology, Urmson revealed data from a recent Google car accident. The driverless-vehicle had been rear-ended at a traffic light by a human driver and after examining an automatic 3D GPS map of the cars surroundings, it was clear who was at fault. It showed that the Google car was static at the time of the accident.

“We don’t have to rely on eyewitnesses that can’t act be trusted as to what happened,” said Urmson, “We actually have the data. The guy around us wasn’t paying enough attention. The data will set you free.”

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