Think you’re a safe driver? Well, you’re not. You can’t be. You’re human. You get distracted by text messages, by billboards, by Sandi Toksvig on the News Quiz. Your reaction times are appalling. If a pedestrian walks out in front of you on a busy high street, you’ll probably hit them before you’ve seen them, because you’re likely to be driving too fast. Nobody really does 30mph in built-up areas, do they? Despite being told that they’re five times more likely to kill the poor soul they’ve hit at 40mph than if they stick to the speed limit.
I learned all this on a dreaded Speed Awareness Course in the same week that Google released safety statistics about its self-driving cars. Google took an enormous amount of flak from the told-you-so brigade when, following suggestions that it had been covering up accidents, the company admitted that its driverless cars had been involved in 11 prangs since they started driving on public roads in the US.
That sounds quite alarming until you break down the statistics. Google has been testing its 20-strong fleet of self-driving vehicles for six years, and on public roads since the beginning of 2012. Cumulatively, they’ve clocked up 1.7 million miles (although not always driving autonomously) and in all that time, with cutting-edge, prototype technology that’s performing one of the most complex artificial intelligence tasks imaginable, they’ve only had 11 accidents. Nobody died, nobody was even hurt. And, according to Google, all 11 accidents were caused by the other driver.
Now, granted, 20 cars driving 1.7 million miles is still a comparatively small sample. British road accidents are measured in billions of miles – 498 casualties per billion vehicle miles in 2012, since you ask – which equates to roughly one casualty for every 2 million miles. Google’s cars aren’t even statistically safer than you and me yet.
More than 1,700 people were killed on our roads in 2013 – the equivalent of roughly four 747s full of passengers. If four commercial jets dropped out of the sky over Britain every year, we’d be talking about an aviation crisis that would cripple the tourist industry. So why don’t planes crash as often as cars? Because, as the cliché goes, the planes virtually fly themselves these days.
Self-driving cars will inevitably kill someone someday, just as the auto-pilot occasionally goes wrong on commercial jets, with catastrophic results. But when I’m travelling down a rainy motorway on a dismal January night, I’d rather have Google at the wheel of the car behind than you. And it can have the keys to my car, too.
Thanks for share Barry Collins. Source: Webuser.