TIME Google

Google Will Now Tell Everyone When its Driverless Cars are in a Crash

Google's self-driving vehicle
Google Google's self-driving vehicle

A new website will disclose all accidents

 

Google has issued its first public report listing traffic accidents involving its self-driving cars.

The decision by the tech giant comes after years of silence about any crashes involving its test vehicles on public roads. Now, the company will publish the details online.

The change, originally announced in May, comes after Google co-founder Sergey Brin was confronted about the topic earlier this week at the company’s annual shareholder meeting. At the time, he defended keeping quiet about any accidents by saying that it was to protect the identities of the humans involved, according to USA Today.

In a monthly report for May published Friday, Google acknowledged that its self-driving cars had been involved in 12 minor accidents over six years of testing. “Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident,” Google said. In most cases, cars driven by others ran into Google’s self-driving vehicle while it was on the street. In one case, a Google employee caused the crash while the car was in manual mode, the company said.

 

(Correction: Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this story gave an incorrect number of accidents caused by Google employees in self-driving cars. There was one such accident. The story was also adjusted to clarify that Google initially disclosed plans last month to publish the report).

TIME Accidents

No Reported Spike in Fatalities on New Jersey Turnpike Despite Recent Crashes

Mathematician John Nash died in crash Saturday

The New Jersey Turnpike has made recent headlines for major accidents and fatal crashes, but based on the most recent data, the highway is not any more unsafe than prior years.

On Saturday, the famed mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. who was the subject of the book and movie A Beautiful Mind, died in a car crash with his wife on the New Jersey Turnpike. Almost a year ago, comedian Tracy Morgan was severely injured from a crash on the same turnpike. The expressway has also been troubled by deadly pile-ups.

However, in 2013, the New Jersey Turnpike had the fewest fatal accidents in its over 60 year history, with a rate of nine deaths which was a significant drop from the previous year’s 24 deaths, according to NJ.com. The number of crashes were about the same from previous years.

During 2013, New Jersey had a similar rate of fatal accidents compared to other similarly sized states with cars on the road, according to data from the non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS reports that 54% of motor vehicle deaths in 2013 happened in rural areas. Recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal government’s road safety organization, shows overall traffic fatalities in the United States for the first half of 2014 dropped about 2.2% from the same period of 2013.

TIME Aviation

MH370 Search Uncovers Shipwreck in Indian Ocean

The Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield is departing Rockingham, Australia for the MH370 search area on May 10, 2014.
Paul Kane—Getty Images The Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield is departing Rockingham, Australia for the MH370 search area on May 10, 2014.

The discovery is "of potential interest, but unlikely to be related to MH370"

The painstaking search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has finally found wreckage on the ocean floor — just not the wreckage it was looking for.

The Australian government, which is coordinating the multi-million-dollar search, announced Wednesday it had found a previously uncharted shipwreck almost 13,000 feet below the surface of the Indian Ocean.

Investigators’ hopes were raised when the Fugro Equator, one of the ships tasked with looking for the aircraft, detected “a cluster of small sonar contacts,” according to an update from the Australian government’s Joint Agency Coordination Center.

Although analysis found these findings were “of potential interest, but…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Autos

Google Blames Humans for Accidents Involving Its Self-Driving Cars

Google Self-Driving Car
Mark Wilson—Getty Images Google's Lexus RX 450H Self Driving Car is seen parked on Pennsylvania Ave. on April 23, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Its fleet has been involved in 11 accidents in six years

Car accidents can and do occur in self-driving vehicles, but you can’t just blame the computer, Google says.

The tech giant revealed in a post on Medium Monday that its fleet of autonomous vehicles have been involved in 11 minor accidents since first hitting the road six years ago. However, the company says the mishaps, which did not cause any injuries, were the result of human error.

“Even when our software and sensors can detect a sticky situation and take action earlier and faster than an alert human driver, sometimes we won’t be able to overcome the realities of speed and distance; sometimes we’ll get hit just waiting for a light to change,” Chris Urmson, the director of Google’s driverless cars program, wrote. “And that’s important context for communities with self-driving cars on their streets; although we wish we could avoid all accidents, some will be unavoidable.”

Seven of Google’s accidents involved being rear-ended, the company said. Two of the accidents were side-swipes, and one was a collision with a car rolling through a stop sign. Eight of the accidents occurred on city streets.

Google offered the additional data about its program following an Associated Press investigation that found three of Google’s driverless cars have been involved in accidents in California since September. An anonymous source told the AP that in at least one of the incidents, the car was in driverless mode when the accident occurred.

Google’s cars have driven a total of 1.7 million miles (combining manual and self-driven mileage), giving them an accident rate of about 6.5 per million miles traveled. That’s considerably higher than the 2.8 property-damage-only accidents per million miles traveled that involved passenger cars nationally in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, Google is quick to point out that a large number of fender benders and other minor accidents are never reported to police, making it hard to compare Google’s record.

Google has invested heavily in autonomous car technology. It’s racing other tech companies, such as Uber, as well as traditional car manufacturers to bring the vehicles to market. Urmson has said that self-driving cars could be ready for widespread use by 2020.

TIME Transportation

The Percentage Increase in Traffic Deaths During Spring Break Will Shock You

Most fatalities occur among drivers under 25 and those traveling from out-of-state

Spring break can be a time of hedonism for many college students, but it’s also a dangerous one, with the holiday leading to a sharp jump in traffic fatalities. That’s according to a new study published in Economic Inquiry, cited by Science Daily.

“We found that between the last week of February and the first week of April, a significantly greater number of traffic fatalities occurred in spring break hot spots compared to other locations in the same states and at other times of the year,” said researcher Michael T. French.

French and his team looked at traffic fatalities in 14 popular spring break destinations from Florida to California. They discovered that death tolls were 9.1% higher during spring break in these destinations, with a higher fatality incidence among drivers under 25 and those traveling from out-of-state.

During spring break, the authors also noted that there was no increase in traffic fatalities in non-spring break destinations, confirming that the spike is attributable to the holiday period itself.

To reduce traffic fatalities, researchers recommend that destinations offer transportation incentives to persuade students to leave cars behind. Travel vouchers for rideshares, taxis and other programs might go a long way in saving a life this spring break, researchers say.

[Science Daily]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 10

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. How do we convince Americans that justice isn’t for sale — when in 39 states, it is?

By Sue Bell Cobb in Politico

2. It took pressure from customers and investors to make corporations environmentally sustainable. It’s time to do the same for gender equity.

By Marissa Wesely in Stanford Social Innovation Review

3. London’s congestion pricing plan is saving lives.

By Alex Davies in Wired

4. Libraries should be the next great start-up incubators.

By Emily Badger in CityLab

5. Annual replanting has a devastating impact. Could perennial rice be the solution?

By Winifred Bird in Yale Environment 360

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Accident

Selfies Contributed to Fatal Plane Crash, Investigators Say

File photo of the wreckage of a crashed Cessna 150 airplane lying in a field near Watkins, Colorado
Sgt Aaron Pataluna—Adams County Sheriff/Reuters The wreckage of a crashed Cessna 150 airplane lies in a field near Watkins, Co. on May 31, 2014.

Flash from cell phone camera likely disoriented pilot

The fatal crash of a small airplane in Colorado last year likely occurred in part because the pilot was taking selfies, federal investigators said.

The pilot, Amritpal Singh, and his passenger were killed when their Cessna 150 crashed near Front Range Airport in Watkins shortly after midnight on May 31. National Transportation Safety Board says a GoPro camera recovered from the wreckage revealed that the pilot and various passengers had taken selfies in the plane with their cell phones, some using the camera’s flash function, during a series of past flights.

While the GoPro camera wasn’t recording the fatal flight, investigators concluded that the flash from a cell phone camera likely disoriented the pilot and contributed to his loss of control of the aircraft. Singh did not meet the requirements to operate a plane at night with a passenger, according to the NTSB.

TIME States

Missouri 5-Year-Old Fatally Shoots Baby Brother

He found the gun lying near the bed, local sheriff said

A nine-month-old boy died Monday after his 5-year-old brother shot him in the head.

The Missouri infant was reportedly in a playpen when his older brother fired a loaded gun that he found near the bed, Nodaway County Sheriff Darren White said, local media KCTV reports.

The boys’ mother told 911 dispatchers her son had been shot with a paintball gun.

When the emergency crew arrived, they discovered he had been shot with a .22 caliber magnum revolver. The shooting, authorities say, was an accident.

[KCTV]

TIME Accidents

Two Planes Clip Wings at New York Airport

No injuries or significant delays were reported

Two planes clipped wings at a New York City airport on Tuesday morning but damages appeared slight and no injuries were reported.

The Denver-bound Southwest Airlines flight, which had 143 passengers and five crew members aboard, damaged its left winglet when it made contact at LaGuardia Airport with an American Airlines flight just in from Dallas and carrying 149 passengers and six crew members, CBS reports. The latter aircraft sustained damage to its tail wing.

The incident did not cause significant delays, the Port Authority says, DNAinfo reports.

[CBS]

TIME weather

More Than 400,000 Lose Power on Thanksgiving

Thanks to a dangerous mix of snow and rain on the East Coast

More than 400,000 people along the East Coast lost power on the busiest cooking day of the year, thanks to a dangerous mix of snow and rain that downed power lines across the region.

New Hampshire was hit the hardest with more than 195,000 without power on Thanksgiving morning. More than 100,000 Maine residents and 55,000 New York residents were also left in the dark.

Almost 5,000 flights were delayed and 700 flights canceled Wednesday, as winter weather snarled air travel up and down the east coast. The roads weren’t much better — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared a state of emergency because of the condition on the roads, and Connecticut police recorded 125 accidents in just one day.

So if you’ve made it to the dinner table, the lights are on and and your food is hot, those are three things to be thankful for.

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