People who live here in the Bay Area are no doubt familiar with Google's project to develop self-driving cars. You may have even seen the quirky-looking vehicles making test drives on streets throughout the area. Since the project began, the Google fleet of more than 20 vehicles has cumulatively traveled more than 1.7 million miles.
Although the fully autonomous vehicles do have a human operator ready to take over, it has never really been a problem. That's not to say that the self-driving cars have never been in accidents. But according to Google, in every one of the 11 minor car accidents that have occurred, the self-driving cars were not to blame.
Even if you don't believe Google's claim about its non-human drivers, 11 minor accidents is nonetheless an impressive safety record considering how many miles have been driven. Moreover, the autonomous vehicles have apparently been able to conduct traffic research during their 10,000 miles of driving per week.
According to the data that Google has analyzed, two human driving behaviors contribute to a significant number of accidents: Running red lights and drifting out of lanes.
As technology companies work to take human error out of driving, they have found that humans continue to cause car accidents because of two basic and very preventable errors. In the case of red-light running, the behavior may more appropriately be considered poor judgment than an honest error.
Is it any surprise that the biggest threats that human drivers face most of the time are their own bad decisions and other human drivers? Hopefully, fully autonomous vehicles will be in widespread use as soon as practically possible.
Source: ABC News, "Google: What It Learned From 1.7 Million Miles on the Road," Alyssa Newcomb, May 11, 2015