Google has said that it will offer monthly updates about its driverless cars, specifically giving details about any accidents in which its cars might be involved.
The news comes as public interest groups demand to be better informed about driverless cars. Google's May report shows that its cars have been involved in 12 accidents so far. One of its cars was then rear-ended at a stoplight, bringing the count to 13 accidents.
While its cars have been involved in 13 accidents, Google says that none of the accidents were the fault of the driverless car, but they did teach the company a lot about its technology. For example, in the case of the car being rear-ended at a stop light, perhaps the vehicle stopped a little faster than a human driver anticipates.
Public interest groups are calling for more information about the accidents, including witness accounts, but Google is declining to offer this information to keep the privacy of those involved intact.
Information about its cars will be increasingly important in coming months, with Google planning on bringing the autonomous pod-like car to the streets of Mountain View, Calif., this summer. The information can be found at this site.
The fact that the cars have been involved in 13 accidents since the program began in 2009 is actually quite impressive considering that, collectively, the program has seen Google cover almost 2 million miles with its cars. Most of the accidents are due to drivers rear-ending the cars, although some are a little more intense. In one case, for example, Google's self-driving Lexus car was driving at 63 miles per hour on the highway when a human driver in the lane next to it crashed into its side. Thankfully, the test driver was able to take control of the car and no one was hurt, but the incident does highlight the fact that sometimes things can go wrong, even when an autonomous vehicle is involved.
It's also important to note that these accounts of accidents are only according to Google, and the actual police reports are sealed and unlikely to be released to the public.
While some might want more information from Google, this is a big step for the company when it comes to public transparency, especially with something that involves public safety as much as autonomous vehicles do. Google is also now putting pressure on other carmakers to release reports about their autonomous vehicles, something that will likely be better for the public in the long run.