Google's driverless cars still need a human driver

Google report shows self-driving cars needed human intervention to prevent 13 accidents

Google driverless car

Perhaps the most famous potential future transportation method is Google's driverless car. As described by the company, the cars use video cameras, radar sensors and laser range finders to drive. They've already hit the road, logging more than 300,000 miles without an accident, Google engineers recently reported. One of the coolest features of the car (in our opinion): It can go through a Taco Bell drive-through!

Google driverless car

Perhaps the most famous potential future transportation method is Google's driverless car. As described by the company, the cars use video cameras, radar sensors and laser range finders to drive. They've already hit the road, logging more than 300,000 miles without an accident, Google engineers recently reported. One of ...

Google's self-driving cars still need, well, a driver.

The company released a report in accordance with regulations from the California Department of Motor Vehicles for autonomous vehicles. In the report, Google noted that from Sept. 24, 2014 to Nov. 30, 2015, test drivers in Google's fleet of self-driving cars had to take control from the autonomous system 341 times.

Of those disengagements, 272 were because of detected technology failures.

More critically, Google reported 69 incidents where "safe operation of the vehicle" required the driver to take over. Of those, Google later determined that 13 of the incidents would have resulted in the car's running into something if the test driver had not taken control of the vehicle.

The company noted in the report that two of the incidents would have resulted in the car's hitting traffic cones and three of the incidents were caused by other drivers.

"These events are rare and our engineers carefully study these simulated contacts and refine the software to ensure the self-driving car performs safely," the report noted. "The rate of these simulated contact disengagements is declining even as autonomous miles driven increase. Because the simulated contact events are so few in number, they do not lend themselves well to trend analysis, but, we are generally driving more autonomous miles between these events."

The company reported that at the end of November, Google had operated its autonomous cars for more than 1.3 million miles. Of that total, 424,331 were driven on public roads in California and the majority of them were in a suburban environment in and around Mountain View, Calif., where Google is headquartered.

Google also said that its fleet of driverless cars are averaging 30,000 to 40,000 miles per month.

The company also pointed out that operating the autonomous cars in an urban environment, instead of just on highways, means navigating in more complex road systems and intersections, and around cyclists and pedestrians.

"This differs from the driving undertaken by an average American driver who will spend a larger proportion of their driving miles on less complex roads such as freeways," Google stated. "Not surprisingly, 89% of our reportable disengagements have occurred in this complex street environment."

While dealing with failures is part of the testing process for any new technology, the report may mean that Google is further away from having autonomous cars in the market than expected, according to Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy.

"The technology needs to be held to the standard of consumers who expect that technological incidents would arise at virtually no time," Moorhead said. "I believe that we are three to five years from the technology to be where it needs to be."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Googleautomobiledriverless car

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?