People have been injured in a crash involving one of Google’s self-driving cars for the first time, project head Chris Urmson wrote in a post on Medium on Thursday.
Google’s cars are periodically involved in accidents on public roads as the tech company develops the experimental autonomous technology. It publishes a monthly report detailing all such incidents. So far, none have been the fault of the self-driving car — this most recent one included.
The accident in question took place on July 1 at an intersection in Mountain View, California. “The light was green, but traffic was backed up on the far side, so three cars, including ours, braked and came to a stop so as not to get stuck in the middle of the intersection,” Urmson writes. “After we’d stopped, a car slammed into the back of us at 17 mph — and it hadn’t braked at all.”
The three passengers in Google’s vehicle suffered from “minor whiplash,” according to a report in the AP, visited hospital briefly, and were “cleared to go back to work.”
In its most recent report, released in June, Google said its fleet of self-driving vehicles had driven more than 1.8 million miles (including when being manually driven), and have only been involved in 14 “minor” accidents. “Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.”
Here’s a GIF showing the impact (give it time to load). It’s clear that Google’s vehicle was stationary at the point of impact.
Here’s what Urmson has to say about the footage:
Our braking was normal and natural, and the vehicle behind us had plenty of stopping distance — but it never decelerated. This certainly seems like the driver was distracted and not watching the road ahead. Thankfully, everyone in both vehicles was ok, except for a bit of minor whiplash, and a few scrapes on our bumper. The other vehicle wasn’t so lucky; its entire front bumper fell off.