Google's robot car was in an accident recently near the company's headquarters. It was a minor accident and no one was reported injured. The company has been testing an autonomous vehicle and has said that the cars have driven autonomously more than 160,000 miles without an accident. This most recent car accident, the company said, was caused by the human driver behind the wheel who happened to be driving the car manually at the time.
Google has been touting the cars as safer and more efficient than cars driven by humans. They say that the accident shows how easy it can be for a person to get in a car accident. A robot car works by using sensors and lasers to see 360 degrees around it at all times. A computer driver also does not get sleepy or distracted like humans, nor does it drink too much on occasion. Google says that the robot vehicle will be more precise than a human driver and will make highways safer.
Nevada lawmakers recently became the first to pass a law that lays the groundwork for autonomous cars to eventually be driven in the state. Google lobbyists had been pushing for the legislation in the hopes to make the cars commercially available and legally drivable in the state in the next several years. So far, the cars must legally have an engineer in the driver's seat ready to take the controls if needed.
Google engineers believe that the cars will make the highways safer by removing much of the human error that can result in car accidents. The company also believes that the robot cars will be able to drive closer together, which will result in more efficient and "greener" highways.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Google's self-driving car is in an accident but human was driving, company says," David Sarno, Aug. 5, 2011