Google’s Self-Driving Car Logs 300,000 Accident-Free Miles

Post by Steven Dale

This site is mostly about urban gondolas and cable cars. But we often like to explore some of the more esoteric, interesting and alternative forms of transportation that exist or might exist in the future.

We also like to predict whether these technologies have any chance of realization or not. More often than not, we feel they don’t. Don’t get us wrong, we love the idea of the Chinese Tunnel Bus™. We just have a hard time imagining it as anything other than an (admittedly) novel death trap.

The one technology we do, however, feel has a fighting chance of changing the face of public and private transportation as we know it is Google’s Self-Driving Car (here, here and here).

Yesterday, Google announced that their self-driving vehicle just crossed the 300,000 mile threshold of accident-free service while under computer control.

Let’s put that number in perspective. 300,000 miles is equivalent to:

  • 108 one-way trips between New York City and Los Angeles;
  • the circumference of the earth . . . . 12 times over;
  • a distance greater than the maximum distance between the earth and the moon;

As The Atlantic Cities points out, that number – while large – is still a relatively small sample compared to what is needed before people can definitively prove the technology is safe and viable. Legal scholars, meanwhile, are debating what this technology means in terms of liability and insurance.

The point, however, is not a black-and-white matter. It’s not a question of whether the technology is or is not ready for the roads. The question is how much closer is it ready for the road than it was just last year?

We in the city building industries tend to look at things from a ready or not perspective. The idea of installing a technology with the explicit understanding that it will improve over time is not something we’re naturally comfortable with. Yet that is entirely what a company like Google is used to – incremental improvements to the point of adoption which leads to further incremental improvements which lead to mass adoption.

If I had a farm to bet, I’d bet it on this.

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  1. i wonder if a widespread diffusion of googlecars could effectively have an impact on public transport. To me seems that the first potential application could be replacing Cabs/taxi, here the limit would be cost/safety vs low-wage human work. In this moment, in most of metropolitan environments replacing "normal" cars with googlecars will change only the number of light accidents - not reducing times and spaces.