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Google self-driving car crashes - with a person behind the wheel

In recent months, California company Google Inc. has been publicizing its latest development: a car that can drive itself. And although we are likely years away from the Google self-driving car becoming a common fixture on our freeways, it is exciting to see the latest developments in technology come to life, which is why a recent accident report involving the self-driving car could spell trouble for the company and its innovation.

Last week, one of the Google self-driving cars was seen in a car accident near Google's Mountain View headquarters. A photo released on an automobile blog showed the Google car on the side of the road after it smashed into another car, with police officers surrounding the scene. In an interesting twist, though, Google is claiming that there was a human behind the wheel when the car crashed.

Under California law, self-driving cars are required to have a human behind the wheel and at the ready, able to assume control if the vehicle if something goes wrong with the self-directing mechanisms. Google representatives claim that the company was fully in compliance with those laws. "Safety is our top priority," said a spokesperson. "One of our goals is to prevent fender-benders like this one, which occurred while a person was manually driving the car."

The spokesperson also added that the self-driving cars have now traveled more than 160,000 miles without any crashes or other incidents. Recently, the state of Nevada became the first U.S. state to legalize self-driving cars, and Google is hoping that California and other states quickly follow suit.

Source: Sacramento Bee, "With human behind wheel, Google's self-driving car crashes," David Sarno, August 5, 2011

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