Autonomous Google Car crash was “not a surprise” for the US transport secretary
Last month, the Google Car had its first minor accident, but according to the US transport secretary Anthony Foxx, it was inevitable. Speaking to the BBC at the SXSW festival this week, Foxx said that accident was “not a surprise,” and that it was part of the ongoing process of improving autonomous technology.
“At some point, there would be a crash of any technology that’s on the road. But I would challenge one to look at the number of crashes that occurred on the same day that were the result of human behavior,” Foxx told the BBC. “I think the question here isn’t comparing the automated car against perfection, I think it’s a relative comparison to what we have now on the roads which is you and I, and our eyeballs, and our brains.”
The accident itself took place last month and only caused minor damage to the modified Lexus that Google uses to test its driverless systems – probably because it took place at 2mph. However, the crash marked the first time the Google Car has made a mistake – and the way it happened is pretty interesting.
According to reports, both the Google Car’s AI and the test driver wrongly assumed a bus was about to let them out of a junction. Significantly, the crash shows that the biggest and most difficult factor that AI cars will have to face is us. While often perfect in controlled conditions, autonomous cars will need to learn how to interact with human drivers – and that means they need to be out on the road with real people.
Secretary Foxx himself is one of the people spearheading plans to do just that in the US. Obama administration has already pledged a huge $4 billion to the cause, and cites the standardisation of autonomous systems between manufacturers as a major priority.