Google has been testing self-driving cars for a few years now. While the ambitious project has won admirers and attracted detractors alike, many states have passed legislation, allowing the testing of such autonomous vehicles on public roads. According to reports, as many as forty eight such vehicles are plying currently on public roads in California alone and contrary to the alarmist predictions from certain quarters, such testing has mostly been incident-free all this while.
However, according to a new report from Associated Press, four out of the aforementioned forty eight autonomous vehicles have apparently been in involved in vehicular mishaps in the past few months. While two of the accidents happened when the cars were in self-driving mode, two others occurred when a human driver was behind the wheel. Three out of the four vehicles are believed to have been Lexus SUVs with sensors fitted by Google to make them 'autonomous', while U.K.-based automotive component supplier Delphi was testing the other vehicle that was involved in one of the accidents. All the accidents however, were low-speed incidents resulting in nothing more than dings and scratches on the said vehicles. No injury was reported as a result of any of these accidents and it is not immediately clear as to who were to blame for the two incidents involving the cars being driven manually.
These incidents however were not the first ones involving Google's test vehicles. Last year, Google had officially acknowledged three incidents till March 2014 and this time around, in a written statement, it has said that there were "a handful of minor fender-benders, light damage, no injuries, so far caused by human error and inattention." Alongside California, three other states – Nevada, Michigan and Florida – have passed legislation making the testing of autonomous self-driving vehicles legal on their public roads, but there have been no reports of any accidents from any of those states.
While a futuristic concept like autonomous vehicles may have seemed like something straight out of the pages of a sci-fi novel even a couple of decades back, the technology itself is very real in the twenty-first century, and certain teething issues notwithstanding, has the ability of potentially revolutionizing the way we have commuted since Henry Ford unleashed his Model T upon us over a century ago. But for that to happen, Google and other interested parties have to prove that the vehicles are indeed ready for prime time before lawmakers and the general public alike will embrace them with open arms. Repetitions of such incidents are not going to help ease concerns any time soon.