Many of us have had our computers crash while browsing Google, but it’s far less common to hear of someone crashing into Google. But that’s exactly what happened on July 1, according to a blog post by Chris Urmson, the search-engine giant’s director for self-driving cars. One of Google’s autonomous Lexus vehicles was rear-ended near an intersection in Mountain View, Calif.
The Google car had been traveling behind several other cars and braked when it came to a stop to avoid being stuck in the middle of the intersection, Urmson wrote in the post. Google’s vehicle was struck at 17 mph by the vehicle behind it, which reportedly had not braked at all.
“This certainly seems like the driver was distracted and not watching the road ahead,” Urmson wrote. “Thankfully, everyone in both vehicles was okay, except for a bit of minor whiplash, and a few scrapes on our bumper. The other vehicle wasn’t so lucky; it’s entire front bumper fell off.”
Google’s test fleet of self-driving cars — manned by safety drivers — have been struck 14 times since the project started in 2009, most in rear-end collisions, but have never been found to be at fault, Urmson stated. The cars are now traveling 10,000 miles a week, roughly equivalent to what the average American adult drives in a year.
The driving record, Urmson indicated, is a testament to the success of the program and evidence that “the clear theme is human error and inattention.”
In other driverless-car news, the University of Michigan just today opened Mcity, which it refers to as “the world’s first controlled environment specifically designed to test the potential of connected and automated vehicle technologies that will lead the way to mass-market driverless cars.”
The $10 million project began in 2013 and broke ground last year in Ann Arbor, Mich. The 32-acre Mcity is a simulated urban and suburban environment that includes a network of roads with intersections, traffic signs and signals, streetlights, building facades, sidewalks and construction obstacles, according to a news release. “It is designed to support rigorous, repeatable testing of new technologies before they are tried out on public streets and highways,” the university said in a statement.
Hundreds of politicians, auto industry leaders and others gathered this morning for Mcity’s big reveal, which did not include any demonstrations of autonomous vehicles, the Detroit News reported.