Computer says no: Google autonomous cars have crashed 11 times in testing

Published: 12 May 2015

► 11 crashes in Google’s autonomous cars
► But ‘none were computer’s fault’
► 1.7 million miles of testing so far

Google’s test fleet of autonomous cars have been involved in 11 accidents, the search giant has admitted - but it denied that any were the software’s fault.

It is developing driverless cars and has been granted permission to test on the roads around its Californian headquarters. 

‘Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident,’ said programme director Chris Urmson in a post on technology news site Medium. ‘If you spend enough time on the road, accidents will happen whether you're in a car or a self-driving car.’

Nobody has been injured in the driverless car accidents yet, the company stressed. Seven of those 11 accidents were caused when a piloted car drove into the back of the Google prototypes.

Google and the quest for driverless cars

The search giant has been quietly developing autonomous car technology for six years, but has recently ramped up its programme with testing on public highways. In 2014 it revealed its first prototype car and it now apparently drives a total of 10,000 miles a week on public roads.

Google’s fleet of 48 driverless cars have driven a combined 1.7 million miles so far, putting its accident rate technically superior to that of the typical driven car. 

Google's own in-house autonomous car prototype (Getty Images)

‘We'll continue to drive thousands of miles so we can all better understand the all-too common incidents that cause many of us to dislike day-to-day driving - and we'll continue to work hard on developing a self-driving car that can shoulder this burden for us,’ Urmson added.

Autonomous cars and public trust

Four of the crashes happened since September 2014 - three in a Lexus RX450h crossover operated by Google and one in an Audi Q5 owned by component supplier Delphi Automotive. Records submitted to Californian authorities suggest that two of the accidents happened in autonomous mode and two in driver-operated mode.

Click here for a detailed look at the Google autonomous car.

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet