By Neal E. Boudette, Crain News Service
YPSILANTI, Mich. (July 23, 2015) — The head of Google Inc.'s self-driving car program said the company's test vehicles are very safe and noted recent accidents involving them were minor and actually the fault of other drivers, not Google technology.
Chris Urmson, speaking at an automated vehicle conference in Ypsilanti, also said the laser and other sensing technology that Google is developing will enable its vehicles to see beyond the line of sight that human drivers have, and the technology is able to prevent the kind of situations in which the potential for accidents increases.
Google's self-driving cars “are learning the road,” in the hours and hours of testing the company is doing,” Mr. Urmson said.
In highway driving, he added, Google's cars operate at a more constant speed and “spend less time in situations where accidents are possible” than well-trained human drivers.
In emphasizing the point, Mr. Urmson presented animated data from a Google car's sensors showing how it slowed in highway driving to move out of the blind spots of other vehicles.
And while human drivers can lose focus on the road because of any number of possible distractions, self-driving cars will be “paying attention all the time,” he said.