A number of media stories last month revealed that several of Google's self-driving cars have been involved in accidents since they were first introduced onto California's roads in September 2014.
But a new report from the Associated Press (AP) has shed more light on these incidents. According to the article, California's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has now released additional details of the accidents – showing that Google's vehicles were not at fault. Although the cars were in self-driving mode when the accidents took place, says the report, the other drivers were actually to blame.
California's DMV had previously not wanted to release details of the accidents, citing confidentiality concerns, said the report. But AP argued that there was a public interest in understanding how the cars of the future are performing on today's roads – leading DMV to review its position and agree "to release the factual information related to the autonomous vehicle reports".
Google admits that its self-driving cars have been involved in twelve minor accidents during the six years of its self-driving project, but confirms that its vehicles have not caused any accidents while in self-driving mode.
And, to help demonstrate the progress the company is making with its self-driving project, it has begun to publish monthly reports that highlight any incidents involving its cars. The first of these, for May 2015, provides details of all accidents since the project began in 2009.
The most frequent cause of these mishaps appears to be when one of Google's self-driving fleet is hit by another car from behind. No one has yet been injured, with most incidents simply leading to a damaged rear bumper – and some careful scrutiny back at Google HQ.
If you're a fan of driverless cars and autonomous driving technologies, you'll no doubt be buoyed by the news, which could help to support the idea that self-driving cars are safer than their human equivalents.
Indeed, to support its case, Google cites a figure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that as many as 94% of the minor accidents taking place on America's roads are caused by driver error.
But if you're not quite ready to surrender control of your car to a robot driver, we suspect there's still a way to go until every one of those accidents will be reliably avoided by a self-driving car.