For the past few weeks, Google has been making news around the country regarding the accidents its cars have been in during this testing period. For a few weeks, everyone was reporting about the eleven accidents that Google’s self-driving cars were involved in. For example, this article states: “Chris Urmson, head of Google’s self-driving car program, said in a blog post that the accidents caused no injuries and only “light damage.” Google’s cars were not the cause of any of the incidents.” A few weeks later, a similar article came out regarding an almost-collision between two self-driving cars. This is, supposedly, “raising concerns over the technology” and “there’s concern about handing control of heavy, fast-moving objects like cars to computers.”
I’m happy to see that Google (and other driverless car technology developers) will continue to have to report on accidents; however, there is a risk in sharing that information with the general public. It’s important that public safety is maintained and the industry learns from the hiccups along the way. They need to fail in order to learn and our society needs to acknowledge that. My big worry is that a few accidents that are due to the driverless car (which, supposedly, hasn’t happened yet) will significantly impede our society’s acceptance of the new technology. I know the media enjoys a good story; however, I hope the reporting around future driverless car accidents finds a balance between public information sharing and respect for the technology development/testing process.
I believe a Washington Post article said it best: “Last year, an estimated 32,675 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. No robots were behind the wheel.”