New data shows Google’s robot cars already outperform humans

Data gathered from Google’s self-driving Prius and Lexus cars shows that they are safer and smoother when steering themselves than when a human takes the wheel, according to the leader of Google’s autonomous-car project.
Chris Urmson made those claims today at a robotics conference in Santa Clara, California. He presented results from two studies of data from the hundreds of thousands of miles Google’s vehicles have logged on public roads in California and Nevada.
One of those analyses showed that when a human was behind the wheel, Google’s cars accelerated and braked significantly more sharply than they did when piloting themselves. Another showed that the cars’ software was much better at maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle ahead than the human drivers were.
“We’re spending less time in near-collision states,” said Urmson. “Our car is driving more smoothly and more safely than our trained professional drivers.”
In addition to painting a rosy picture of his vehicles’ autonomous capabilities, Urmson showed a new dashboard display that his group has developed to help people understand what an autonomous car is doing and when they might want to take over. “Inside the car we’ve gone out of our way to make the human factors work,” he said.
Although that might suggest the company is thinking about how to translate its research project into something used by real motorists, Urmson dodged a question about how that might happen. “We’re thinking about different ways of bringing it to market,” he said. “I can’t tell you any more right now.”