Google co-founder Sergey Brin has revealed that one of its self-driving cars had been involved in a rear-ended accident at a traffic signal in the past week, making it the 12th accident recorded after traveling more than 1.7 million miles for the last six years.
Brin, who also oversees the fleet of Google self-driving cars, defended the technology among shareholders on Wednesday at the company's meeting in Mountain View California. He mentioned that releasing the accident reports had been held to secure the involved motorists' privacy and no additional information could be learned from the documents compared to the summary that was posted online by the company three weeks ago.
Google enumerated the 12 accidents experienced by its self-driving cars, which includes being rear-ended eight times now, hit by another vehicle moving through a stop sign, cars being side-swiped twice and one accident involved a company employee in control at the time of one crash.
"Our greatest learning is that people don't pay attention, even trained drivers. I'm very proud of the record of our cars. We don't claim to be perfect, our goal is to beat human drivers," Brin mentioned.
The Associated Press and Consumer Watchdog have been vocal about their request of acquiring the accident reports filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles and other government agencies for a better public visualization of the risks posed by the self-driving vehicles. However, the agencies and Google have cited a longstanding state law making collision reports confidential.
The main selling point for Google's self-driving cars is safety. Its radar, laser sensors and high-tech cameras offer an advanced understanding of their surroundings than human drivers have. Reaction times are expected to be faster. Self-driving cars could be programmed to adopt if they sense a crash accident coming, such as tightening seat belts, moving a few feet from the other vehicle, blowing the horn or simply flash lights at the unfocused driver.
Google has been planning to start testing the latest version of its self-driving car around the streets of Mountain View and other close public roads this summer. Around 25 of the two-seater, pod-like vehicles would be traveling around initially at speeds of approximately 25 miles per hour.
"I think we should be optimists and be excited by all the things we are building and contributing to the world," stated Larry Page, Google Inc. CEO and the company's other co-founder.
Photo: Mark Doliner | Flickr