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Four Self-Driving Test Cars Have Been In Crashes

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Self-driving cars are being tested in California, Michigan, Florida and Nevada (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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Of the 48 self-driving cars that have been cruising around California, four of them have gotten into collisions.In September, California began issuing permits to companies who wanted to test self-driving cars on public roads, the Associated Press reports. Since then, there have been four crashes out of 48 cars that have gone out for testing. The DMV has confirmed these four incidents, but declined to provide any additional information as collision reports are confidential.

One was a Delphi Automotive test car. According to a spokesperson at Delphi, their self-driving Audi SQ5 was broadsided by another car as it waited to turn left.

The other three were among the 23 Lexus SUVs being tested by Google Inc.. Google has not revealed any significant details regarding their three crashes, but has issue a statement saying there have been a "handful of minor fender-benders" but no injuries, and that all were caused by "human error and inattention." An anonymous source told AP that all of the crashes occurred at speeds under 10 mph, and that two were while a person was driving the car.

The national rate for crashes in which only property is damaged is 0.3 per 100,000 miles driven, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Given that Google's cars have only traveled 140,000 miles since fall and have already racked up three crashes, that may seem high. However, Google has countered by pointing out that many people fail to report minor crashes. Google has also logged 700,000 total miles since 2009.

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In Michigan, Nevada and Florida—the three other states where self-driving cars have been permitted for testing on public roads—no crashes have been reported.

In theory, a self-driving car would be safer than one controlled by a human. These cars use laser sensors, cameras and other gadgetry that allow them to gauge what's around them better than a person, and they can also react faster to that information than a human could. These cars would anticipate crashes and take actions to avoid them, such as honking or moving. They would also prepare for crashes by tightening seat belts.

Critics have expressed concern that neither the DMV or the companies are required to explain the details of any crashes to the public. John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog said that transparency is important, especially considering that Google in particular wants to eventually manufacture car that doesn't even have pedals or a steering wheel. Simpson wrote a letter to the DMV in 2014 urging them to exercise caution when permitting driverless cars.

In 2012, Google released a video where a man who lost 95 percent of his vision takes a self-driving car to Taco Bell. Google co-founder Sergey Brin has stated in the past that the driverless cars may be ready for consumers as early as 2017.