Details of accidents involving Google's self-driving cars have been made public after years of secrecy.
The California DMV has released detailed reports of six self-driving car accidents involving prototype vehicles from Google vehicles and parts supplier Delphi Automotive.
According to the Associated Press, five accidents involved Lexus SUVs that Google outfitted with sensors and cameras. The sixth involved an Audi retrofitted by Delphi. All were in the Silicon Valley cities of Mountain View or Palo Alto.
The reports say that the self-driving cars were not at fault for any of the accidents and in all but one incident the vehicles were in self-driving mode. In this instance the Google SUV began applying its brakes when it sensed a 2015 Audi S6 had run a stop sign and was about to hit it, but the person behind the wheel took control of the car just before the Audi hits its right rear. The crash of the Delphi car occurred when the car was waiting at an intersection.
Google has been testing automated cars since 2009 but has only been required to report accidents since a law change in September 2014. Even then the DMV kept these accident reports confidential until now.
After the AP reported details of four self-driving car accidents last month, Google decided to get ahead of the curve and release some details itself. Chris Urmson who heads up the project for Google wrote a blog post detailing eight other accidents involving the cars that took place between 2010 and July 2014. As with the official details released by the DMV, the self-driving cars did not cause the accidents.
The DMV originally denied a public interest request from the AP to release the accident records. But after the news agency successfully argued that the information was in the public interest the DMV agreed to release the accident reports. "After further review, DMV has determined that it is possible to release the factual information related to the autonomous vehicle reports" as long as the drivers' personal information and other details such as insurance information is blacked out", wrote DMV attorney Roger Sato.
A total of eight companies are testing self-driving cars in California, but Google is easily the most active, having logged 1.8 million miles in 48 licensed prototypes. In California, a driver is required to report to the DMV any accident involving more than $750 of property damage.
The fact that all these incidents were minor and nobody was hurt is good news. It's also comforting to know that the self-driving cars were not at fault. However as more of these vehicles fill our roads (Google is launching a new fleet this summer) it's important that DMV officials continue to be transparent and make details of accidents available to the public.
Photo: Mark Doliner | Flickr