Google’s self-driving vehicle chief dismisses safety concerns


Self-driving vehicles don’t need to be perfectly safe to be successful, they just need to safer than human drivers. Even so, concerns have been raised over the recent batch of rear-end accidents that Google’s self-driving vehicles were involved in during their ongoing testing. Chris Urmson, the head of Google’s self-driving vehicle program, has dismissed these concerns as “noise” and claims that of the 14 accidents reported during the program’s entire lifetime, 100% of them were due to human driver error. 

Google’s automated vehicles have covered almost a million miles of road, but after a spate of recent rear-end accidents, their safety has come under scrutiny. Chris Urmson, the head of Google’s self-driving car program, defended the safety record of the project at an event in Ypsilanti, Michigan, today. “There’s been a lot of noise recently in the press about the fact that our vehicles have been in collisions,” Urmson said. “We’ve been hit 14 times over the lifetime of the program, and there’s been a bunch of speculation about that.” Urmson said all of the accidents were due to human driver error, and most were examples of the growing problem of driver distraction. He showed video clips of the sensor data captured by Google’s cars during several accidents, including one in which a driver rear-ended one of Google’s cars without slowing down, most likely because his attention was focused on his smartphone.


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