With each passing year, driverless cars are inching closer to the showroom and your driveway. California has already approved 10 companies to test self-driving cars on the open road, including major tech and car companies like Google, Tesla, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, BMW and Honda.
Google in particular has been testing more than 20 cars on open roads for six years with nearly a million miles racked up. In that time, Google cars have been involved in only 11 accidents, and each time the self-driving car wasn't at fault. But now, according to Google, it might share a little of the blame.
One of the strengths of a self-driving car is that, unlike a human, it can see 360 degrees to know everything that's going on around it and react faster to danger. It also doesn't get tired or distracted, and it always follows the rules of safe driving.
The problem, Google now says, is that self-driving cars follow the rules too well. If every car on the road was a self-driving car that would be great, but for now most other cars have human drivers.
As you know, human drivers don't always follow the rules. We tend to drive aggressively and make snap decisions that aren't always safe. Mix in a strict rule-following self-driving car and it could actually make things more dangerous for everyone. Just think of the chaos of lane changes and near collisions that can happen around a car actually traveling the speed limit on the freeway.
Google's solution is to make its cars drive more "humanistically," i.e. a bit more aggressively. It thinks that could help self-driving cars fit in better with the rest of surrounding traffic.
This is going to be tough because computers only do what they're told. You can't just tell them to follow the rules "sort of." Trying to boil down erratic human driving tendencies, even mild ones, into code is going to be a trick, but Google can probably figure it out. We just hope it doesn't accidentally invent a virtual teenage driver.
What do you think of Google's analysis? Would a rule-abiding self-driving car cause more problems on the road? Would you trust a self-driving car that drives more like a human? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.