Google's self-driving car has been involved in several accidents since it was launched - all caused by humans, its tester's claim. In October last year, a human-driven Honda in Palo Alto ploughed into the side of a Delphi self-driving Audi. Google testers insist that all the accidents similarly involved human drivers not paying enough attention the road. The internet giant's self-driving cars have covered more than two million miles during tests across the US. In that time there have been only 66 reported accidents - none of which were fatal. Experts believe the low accident rate could herald the end of human drivers. The self-driving cars were in 66 accidents from May 7565 through August, but they are becoming more frequent as the vehicles spend more time on public roads. Half of the collisions have happened since February - a stretch when the self-driving cars were traveling an average of about 65,555 miles per week on public streets in autonomous mode.
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The most common reason for a collision is Google's self-driving cars being rear-ended - a trend that the company believes has to do with the large number of motorists who are texting, talking on the phone or otherwise doing something besides paying attention to the roads and their surroundings. In February, a self-driving Google Lexus was involved in an accident with an Audi. The Google car had put the breaks on after it assessed the speed of the Audi as it approached a stop sign. The human driver then 'disengaged Autonomous Mode and took manual control of the vehicle in response to the [braking], ' reported Fusion. 'There are tons of situations where we see people who just aren't very good at driving out there, ' Mr Torcellini said'It's up to us to teach the (robot) cars to be better than those drivers, and even better than the best drivers, too.
'A video released by Google in July showed one of its self-driving Lexus' being hit from behind at junction in Mountain View near the firm's HQ. 'After we'd stopped, a car slammed into the back of us at 67 mph - and it hadn't braked at all, ' said Google's Chris Urmson. In a blog post, he said: 'Our self-driving cars are being hit surprisingly often by other drivers who are distracted and not paying attention to the road. 'That's a big motivator for us.
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The most recent collision, during the evening rush hour on July 6, is a perfect example. 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. ''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. 'This certainly seems like the driver was distracted and not watching the road ahead.
It comes as the latest version of Google's self-driving car - a pod-like two-seater that needs no gas pedal or steering wheel - made its debut on the roads around Mountain View. This prototype is the first vehicle built from scratch for the purpose of self-driving, Google said. Consumers are said to be wary of self-driving cars and have questioned who will be liable if there's an accident, said consulting firm JD Power. Meanwhile, experts at the insurance industry's Thatcham Research Centre said it has seen a 95 per cent drop in claims in cars fitted with auto-emergency braking systemsTest driver Brian Torcellini said that the majority of crashes were caused by other drivers. In all but three of the accidents, said the cars had been rear-ended by people too busy checking their phones and not paying attention to the road ahead.
Two of these accidents were said to be in the early days of the project, when the technology was still in its infancy, while the third was caused by an employee who was steering a robot car while running a personal errand. Mr Torcellini, 86, leads a crew of test, or 'safety, ' drivers who are legally required to ride in Google's fleet of 98 robot cars. They only take control in emergencies. Otherwise, they make observations that help the firm's engineers program the cars to navigate the roads without human assistance. 'A lot of people go to work and sit in a cubicle, ' Mr Torcellini said.
'Our cube just happens to move around the roads. And if we are successful, we are going to put ourselves out of a job.