Google's self driving cars are getting into accidents. Lots of them, actually, according to reports.
The company only released the number of accidents after The Associated Press reported that Google had notified California of three collisions involving its self-driving cars since September.
Since September it became a legal requirement to report all accidents for permit holders testing self driving vehicles on California roads.
The internet ad company revealed Monday that its self-driving cars have actually been in 11 minor traffic accidents over the last six years, attempting to statistically downplay the accident rate by spreading it out over six years.
And yet the rate, even with Google's generous math, is troubling.
The reported rate of “property-damage-only crashes” is about 0.3 per 100,000 miles driven, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Google’s 11 accidents per 1.7 million miles is about 0.6 per 100,000, about double the national rate.
Yet Google is predictably defensive. “Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident,” wrote Google’s Chris Urmson.
We'll likely never know the true causes or rates due to the massive hype, investment and reputation that is on the line.
This fanatical secrecy deeply troubles critics who want the public to be able to monitor the rollout of a technology that remains far from perfect.
Five other companies with testing permits told the AP they had no accidents. In all, 48 cars are licensed to test on state roads.
Nevada, Michigan and Florida have passed laws welcoming tests of self-driving cars onto their roads. Their regulators claimed they weren’t aware of any reports, but deep vested interests make this claim unlikely.
It remains likely the public will not know for some time the true rate of accidents for self driving vehicles given the stakes. In the meantime, Google & Co. have work to do.