All the Accidents Driverless Cars Got in by Being Too Good at Driving

By Kate Knibbs on at

Driverless cars are designed to cut down on traffic accidents, but that hasn’t stopped human-driven cars from crashing into them anyway.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) just published all of its driverless car accident reports online — low-speed, minor bumper bashes, with human error to blame. But there is a common thread besides human stupidity in the reports: Driverless cars can be overly cautious.

In traffic conditions where people are used to more aggressive traffic, the clash in driving styles could create conditions for incidents like these – and these reports highlight how that can happen. In an April 2015 report, a driver bumped into an automated Google car after the driverless car came to a stop while “creeping forward” on a right turn, because it detected another vehicle near the intersection.

Abruptly stopping is what computers do when they sense a threat, while human drivers may simply accelerating around the corner. And people used to driving alongside other people aren’t necessarily prepared for the abundance of caution used by automated drivers.

That’s something Google is already working to correct, as the Wall Street Journal reported last month:

The cars are “a little more cautious than they need to be,” Chris Urmson, who leads Google’s effort to develop driverless cars, told a conference in July. “We are trying to make them drive more humanistically.”

I eagerly await the driverless cars equipped with a tiny robot hands for giving the finger during rush hour. [TechCrunch]

Screenshot via Google