Google’s self-driving cars program seems to be in more advanced stages than others and last month, it was reported that the project would keep going on as part of Alphabet as a separate unit. This might have been interpreted as the project being closer to a wider release. There are some serious concerns about this type of car, not only regarding liability but also, how would humans react to them once they are around. The company periodically reports about how the test units behave in the roads of California and most of the accidents were allegedly caused by humans and not the driverless cars themselves. Let’s also keep in mind that these test units include manual controls to be used in case they are needed.
Google’s latest report includes some facts that certainly need to be taken into consideration. From September 2014 to November 2015, there were a total of 341 occasions where drivers needed to take control of the vehicles, which Google refers to as “disengagements”. From that number, 272 incidents had to do with a failure of a technological aspect of the cars. The reason for the 69 remaining incidents was “safe operation of the vehicle requires control by the driver”. This has to do with how drivers interact with this new kind of vehicles, some occasions they took control because drivers in other cars were not driving appropriately while other occasions the drivers were just uncomfortable and needed to feel like they were in control of the vehicle. Apparently, up to 13 accidents were prevented because of humans taking control of the vehicles.
According to recent studies, Google’s autonomous vehicles might be more prone to accidents because of how they are programmed to follow every single rule on the road, which might not be as convenient in certain situations. Apparently, it is 15 times more likely that these vehicles are involved in an accident than traditional vehicles. Still, the technology is here to stay and let’s remember that the vehicles are in their trial period, so incidents are to be expected. Major car manufacturers are currently researching on how to implement the new technology in their own vehicles and estimates point out that 10 million autonomous vehicles could be on the streets by the year 2020.