A new report studying self driving cars currently being tested shows that although the cars have been involved in accidents, not one has been the result of the actual car.
The report from the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute says the accident rate of autonomous cars being tested by Google and two other companies is a little higher than the average for human controlled cars. However, the accidents tended to be less severe than those of conventional cars. Also not a single accident has been a result of the car’s performance.
Report authors Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak say their study covered 50 cars and logged 2 million kilometers in tests run by three of the 10 companies working on self driving cars - Google, Audi and Delphi.
Most of the trips took place in California and Texas, which the authors admit offer easier and safer road conditions than for example northern states, which experience snow. California has one of the lowest accident rates in the country.
The study shows that the cars were never involved in front-end collisions, but they were 50 percent more likely than conventional cars to get hit from behind. The authors say this makes perfect sense as the cars are particularly good at watching where they go without distraction, which is not the case of the human drivers following behind.
Schoettle and Siva concluded their report by saying self-driving cars are still too new and few to truly compare their safety to that of traditional vehicles.
“We currently cannot rule out, with a reasonable level of confidence, the possibility that the actual rate for self-driving vehicles is lower than for conventional vehicles.”
A Google spokesperson says since the company launched its self driving project in 2009 “Not once has our self-driving car been the cause of a collision. In all of the crashes the company’s cars have been involved there is a clear theme of human error and inattention.”