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Google's Self-Driving Cars of Tomorrow Face the Mean Streets of Today

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One of Google's self-driving cars.

Google's cars have been involved in 11 accidents in their six years of testing, the company says.

Credit: ptwo/Flickr

Google says its self-driving cars will be good for road safety because they can pay better attention to the road than humans do.

Chris Urmson, director of Google's self-driving car program, says the company's fleet has new sensors with 360-degree visibility that can keep track of other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians to a distance of nearly two football fields.

He notes the cars have been involved in 11 accidents over six years of testing, including seven times from behind and mainly at traffic lights. The cars also have been side-swiped a couple of times and hit by a car rolling through a stop sign.

Urmson emphasizes self-driving cars must recognize and respond to the quirky driving habits of humans. He also illustrates in some ways how Google's cars have successfully reacted to erratic driving, such as drivers making right turns from the lane to the left of Google's vehicle, cutting sharply across its path. Google's cars will slow down in such cases "to avoid the car making this crazy turn," Urmson says.

Google says its cars now average 10,000 miles of autonomous driving a week, mainly on the streets near its headquarters in Mountain View, CA.

From IDG News Service
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