Road Safety News

Report reveals Google’s self-driving crash data

Friday 15th January 2016


Drivers of Google’s self-driving car had to intervene 13 times  between September 2014 and November 2015 in order to stop the vehicle from crashing.

The figures are revealed in Google Self­ Driving Car Testing Report which was requested by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The report also shows that during the same time period, Google’s autonomous car recorded 272 disengagements (where the driver was forced to take over following a detection of a failure of the autonomous technology) over a distance of 424,331 miles, an average of once every 1,560 miles.

In December 2015,  a freedom of information request revealed that the Internet giant has held five meetings in the last two years with the Department for Transport (DfT) to discuss introducing driverless cars to the UK.

This followed the publication of draft proposals by the DMV intended to pave the way for the public to use self-driving cars on roads in California.

The 32-page Google report highlights an improvement in reliability, showing that the number of autonomous miles driven per disengagement is increasing.

The report reads: “Our test drivers play a critical role in refining our technology and ensuring the safe operation of the vehicles while we are in this development phase.

“They are directed to take control of the vehicle as often as they feel is necessary and for a variety of reasons relating to the comfort of the ride, the safety of the vehicle, or the erratic or unpredictable behaviour of other road users.

“Each time a test driver takes manual control of the vehicle, our system automatically records the circumstances leading up to the disengagement from autonomous mode and flags them for review by the software team.

“This information, along with feedback given by the test driver, is used to evaluate the software for any potential.”

The California DMV also requested information from other autonomous driving manufacturers, including Tesla and Nissan.

Photo: Alan via Flickr: use under creative commons act. 


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If you look at all the reports and sum all the data you'll find total travel in California by all makes was 459,763 miles, and total disengagements were 2,768 or one every 166 miles. If you adjust the figures to remove disengagements for testing purposes then there were 1,516 disengagements or one per 303 miles. And if you use the numbers where disengagement occurred to avoid an impact then there were 37 or one every 12,426 miles. For comparison the 80% of responsible drivers crash about once every 522,000 miles in USA, and the 30% of very responsible drivers crash about once every 1,305,000 miles. And these crash rates relate to vehicles being driver in all conditions whereas to date autonomous vehicles have been driven in limited/ relatively safe conditions.
John Lambert, Geelong Australia

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