I raised a very important question last year: who’s fault is it if a driverless car crashes? The question was as valid then as it is today, but it was also something we could only speculate about. Now we are about to get in the “non-driver” seat as these cars start making their way into the market, and we have to wonder how we will deal with autonomous vehicles under the eyes of the law.
We have heard it over and over – autonomous vehicles are better drivers than humans. But how right is this statement? Also, this argument should not be confused with the idea that self-driving cars are not prone to accidents at all. They certainly are, and Google is here to prove that.
Google’s driverless cars have been in 11 accidents so far!
A new report from the Associated Press claims the Search Giant has been interestingly active in reporting accidents to authorities. By the way, these reports were a requirement for allowing self-driving cars into state roads.
To be exact, Google’s self-driving cars have been in 11 accidents since the company started their testing. Four of these were reported since last September. These accidents include “a handful of minor fender-benders, light damage and no injuries.”
So… who’s fault was it?
I guess we are moving away from my original doubt, as what I was wondering last year is who’s fault it would be… if the self-driving car was the one causing the accident. These actually-smart cars are proving to be much better drivers than humans, as none of these 11 accidents have been caused by Google’s vehicles. All accidents were minor and were due to human error, not Google’s systems.
Are humans bad drivers compared to robots?
In short, yes, we are. We like feeling in control of situations, and seem to believe that we have to do things in order to do them right. What we don’t realize is that we are distracted creatures by nature. And please don’t take that as a bad thing – it’s good. Being too focused on something is bad for our survival. It just so happens to also make us more dangerous when we are operating machines that weigh multiple tons.
We are also limited by our biology. We can only see, hear, feel or sense a certain number of things at once. A computer running a multitude of sensors and cameras knows what is going on around you much better than you ever could. These vehicles don’t have blind spots and can also react much faster than you.
Let’s just hope we don’t get any force closes….
The real issue
We suppose the real problem here is that we would like more transparency about what is going on with Google’s autonomous driving testings. We only found out about these accidents until recently, and even now Google is not really giving us all the details behind them.
We understand these accidents were not Google’s systems’ fault, but people are still wary of what’s going on. They need to be able to trust you, before they hand you over their keys. I can bet most people who go through this article not worrying about who’s fault it is. Instead they will go to their friends mentioning that “these Google car thingies are getting in accidents”.
More information and openness about what’s going on would probably make the public feel much better. Especially when you aim to bring these vehicles to market soon, and you even want to get rid of pedals and driving wheels at some point. It’s a matter of acceptance.
Also, it’s not about getting rid of accidents
The world is a wild place, right? We can all agree on that. Even the best of systems crashes, and experts can often make significant mistakes. This means that, while self-driving cars can make the roads safer, they will never be 100% clear of crashes.
What Google (and any other self-driving car maker) will aim to do is get rid of accidents as much as possible, but also make the smartest choices when these can’t be avoided. Maybe these cars can turn in the right direction and hit the breaks at the right time, making sure the accident is as insignificant as possible. In the worst of cases, maybe these cars could make you hit a fence before sending you flying off a cliff.
You get the idea. The point is that people need to stop freaking out about what they can’t control. We are humans and make a lot of errors. Face it and let go of the wheel so that our fellow Google robots can take over. This is not a Terminator movie, guys.