The first reported injuries suffered in a self-driving car occurred earlier this month. A Google Lexus was driving itself toward an intersection in Mountain View during rush hour. The self-driving Lexus stopped at an intersection. The light was green, but traffic congestion prevented the Google car (as well as the two cars in front of it) from driving through the intersection without blocking it. The driver of the fourth car in the line did not notice the stopped traffic, but only the green light, and slammed into the back of the self-driving car at 17 miles an hour. Three Google employees went to the hospital after the accident and were treated for whiplash.
One Google employee reports that the braking of the self-driving car was normal and natural. The vehicle that hit the self-driving car had plenty of stopping distance, but did not slow down. The employee guesses that the driver that hit the self-driving car was driving while distracted. Other drivers have hit Google cars 14 times since the beginning of the self-driving project in 2009. Eleven of those incidents were rear-end collisions. In none of the 14 incidents was the self-driving car the cause of the collision. Instead, human error and inattention were to blame in all 14 incidents. Google engineers are hoping that this shows that the self-driving cars are performing better than cars with human drivers.
As of now, 48 cars are being tested on California roads. Google is testing the most cars, with 23 in total. California requires that a person must be behind the wheel when a self-driving car is being tested on public roads. Google self-driving cars are now driving about 10,000 miles a month. In total, they have driven over one million miles in self-driving mode.
The Lexus that was hit is one of a hybrid model that Google outfitted with self-driving technology, including radar and cameras. Google has also built 25 prototype cars from its own design, although only two are currently on the streets. The cars are all owned by Google and are being tested by Google employees. Another first almost occurred late last month – two self-driving cars almost hit each other on a street near Google’s headquarters.
As self-driving cars become more common, and perhaps one day available to the general public, it will be fascinating to see whether the cars are better at avoiding serious collisions than cars driven by humans. Currently, there are on average over 10 million car collisions a year in the U.S. In those incidents, approximately 35,000 people per year are killed. Many more suffer injuries that range in their severity. California and Texas have the most traffic fatalities among states, with an average of between 3,000 and 4,000 deaths annually in each state due to traffic incidents.
After a car collision, there are specific steps that must be followed in order to successfully obtain compensation. Typically, the incident must be thoroughly investigated, including collecting police reports, questioning witnesses, reconstructing the scene, taking photographs, looking at medical witnesses, and contacting expert witnesses. In some situations, an accident victim will attempt to negotiate directly with an insurance company, fearing that an attorney will be too expensive. However, studies have shown that victims who hire attorneys on average get much higher awards then those who do not, even after the attorneys’ fees are deducted.
If you have been in an automobile collision, it’s critical that you speak with a personal injury attorney before making any decisions about your case. If you’re in the San Francisco area, call San Francisco automobile accident attorney Micha Star Liberty at 415-896-1000 or 510-645-1000.