Human ploughs into back of self-driving car (and Google thinks that's a good thing)

Such accidents prove the importance of building self-driving cars, director of the project claims

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The Independent Tech

A person has been injured by a Google self-driving car for the first ever time — and the company says that the collision shows the need for driverless transport.

Google has released a short video showing the data from the crash. In it, the self-driving Lexus appears as the only real car, and the pink shapes represent cars that the cameras have spotted.

The video shows the Lexus coming to a slow, careful stop. And then the other human-driven car comes up behind, doesn’t break at all, and slams into the back of the Google car.

“As you can see from the video above, our braking was normal and natural, and the vehicle behind us had plenty of stopping distance — but it never decelerated,” wrote Chris Urmson, the director of Google’s self-driving car project. “This certainly seems like the driver was distracted and not watching the road ahead.

“Thankfully, everyone in both vehicles was okay, except for a bit of minor whiplash, and a few scrapes on our bumper. The other vehicle wasn’t so lucky; its entire front bumper fell off.”

Urmson says that the company is now driving its cars enough that it can work out how likely these crashes are to happen. The cars are having more crashes than Google expected, Urmson said, but none of the collisions are the cars fault — “clear theme is human error and inattention”, Urmson wrote.

The company says that its self-driving cars aim to stop reliance on humans and their patchy attention spans. The company hopes eventually that the cars — which can see in 360-degrees, pay attention to hundreds of objects at once and never get tired — will be able to go instead of cars, helping to keep those riding in them much more safe.

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