Google self-driving car involved in first injury accident


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Google Inc. revealed Thursday that one of its self-driving car prototypes was involved in an injury accident for the first time.

In the collision, a Lexus SUV that the tech giant outfitted with sensors and cameras was rear-ended in Google’s home city of Mountain View, where more than 20 prototypes have been self-maneuvering through traffic.

The three Google employees on board complained of minor whiplash, were checked out at a hospital and cleared to go back to work following the July 1 collision, Google said. The driver of the other car also complained of neck and back pain.

In California, a person must be behind the wheel of a self-driving car being tested on public roads to take control in an emergency. Google typically sends another employee in the front passenger seat to record details of the ride on a laptop. In this case, there was also a back seat passenger.

Google has invested heavily as a pioneer of self-driving cars, technology it believes will be safer and more efficient than human drivers.

This was the 14th accident in six years and about 1.9 million miles of testing, according to the company. Google has said that its cars have not caused any of the collisions — though in 2011 an employee who took a car to run an errand rear-ended another vehicle while the Google car was out of self-driving mode.

In 11 of the 14, Google said its car was rear-ended.

In a blog posted Thursday, the head of Google’s self-driving car program, Chris Urmson, wrote that his SUVs “are being hit surprisingly often” by distracted drivers, perhaps people looking at their phones.

“The clear theme is human error and inattention,” Urmson wrote. “We’ll take all this as a signal that we’re starting to compare favorably with human drivers.”

In a telephone interview, Urmson said his team was exploring whether its cars could do something to alert distracted drivers before a collision. Honking would be one possibility, but Urmson said he worried that could start to annoy residents of Mountain View.

According to an accident report that Google filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles about the July 1 crash:

Google’s SUV was going about 15 mph in self-driving mode behind two other cars as the group approached an intersection with a green light.

The first car slowed to a stop so as not to block the intersection — traffic on the far side was not moving. The Google car and the other car in front of it also stopped.

Within about a second, a fourth vehicle rear-ended the Google car at about 17 mph. On-board sensors showed the other car did not brake.

The driver of that car reported “minor neck and back pain.” The SUV’s rear bumper was slightly damaged, while the vehicle that struck it lost its front bumper.

Mountain View police responded, but did not file an accident report.

JUSTIN PRITCHARD, Associated Press



  1. แครี ดัน on

    “In 11 of the 14, Google said its car was rear-ended.”
    No surprise, especially these days with careless drivers too busy looking at their iPhones/tablets/smartphones and not paying attention to the road. Google should install rearward looking cameras to record how many times the drivers behind them aren’t paying attention.

    Only time I was in a “rear-ender” I was stopped at a red light in my ’69 Roadrunner (high rear end and heavy steel bumper). One of those slope-nose Mazda 280Zs pulls up behind me. Guy behind him in some old Chevy POS rams into the rear of the Mazda and shoves him under my rear bumper. To make matters worse, being that I was stopped I had my foot on the brake and when I felt the impact I slammed the brake pedal to the floor so I wouldn’t get pushed into the intersection. It worked but it sure made a mess of the front of the Mazda as his hood and front quarter panels contact my bumper about a third of the way up his hood. Barely scraped the paint on my bumper but his aluminium front end was trashed !

    The guy who caused the accident ? “I thought the light was going to change so I didn’t bother slowing down” !!!!! (This was long before even cell phones so he was probably fiddling with his cassette deck or radio instead.)

  2. Will Kelsall on

    ..and in the meantime, how many owner driven cars have crashed?