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Since 2014, there have only been 34 reported accidents involving self-driving cars on California roads, according to state incident reports — and most happened when a human-driven car rear-ended or bumped into a self-driving car stopped at a red light or stop sign, or driving at low speed.

Why it matters: A major benefit to self-driving cars is the potential to reduce traffic accidents caused by human error. While it's a small set of data, the low rate of accidents caused by self-driving cars underscores the technology's enhanced safety.

Expand chart
Data: State of California Department of Motor Vehicles; Icon: Guilhem/The Noun Project; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

But humans will continue to be a problem for the foreseeable future. A closer look at those accident reports reveals stark differences between how self-driving cars interpret the rules of the road and how humans behave behind the wheel. For example, human drivers make sudden lane changes or run red lights — not the way self-driving cars are taught to behave on the road. These awkward interactions between self-driving and human-driven cars will probably result in more fender-benders as more autonomous vehicles arrive on the roads.

The self-driving cars were at fault in only four incidents, and in autonomous mode in only one of those four. In six out of the 10 incidents in which the cars were in manual mode (with human drivers in control) at the time of the collision, the cars were previously in autonomous mode until drivers took over for safety reasons.

In context: It's important to keep in mind how long the cars are on the road. Waymo, for example, filed 13 accident reports in 2016, but its cars also drove 635,868 miles in autonomous mode during that period, or just about 1 for every 50,000 miles. To date, 36 companies have permits to test self-driving cars in California.

Data note: In making the chart above, Axios had to make assumptions in a few cases, including the car's general speed and which driver was at fault, due to information gaps in the accident reports.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

CDC panel endorses Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

An advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday endorsed the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for 12-to 15-year-olds, following the FDA's emergency use authorization.

Why it matters: Approval from the CDC panel was the final step needed before inoculations could be offered at any vaccination site for this age group.

  • Pfizer has said its vaccine is 100% effective at protecting against COVID-19 in a trial of more than 2,200 children between the ages of 12 and 15.

GOP lawmakers downplay Capitol riot at House hearing

Photo: Jon Cherry via Getty Images

Republican members of Congress sought to minimize the Capitol insurrection at a House hearing on Wednesday, with statements calling pro-Trump rioters "patriots" and other lawmakers falsely denying demonstrators were supporters of the former president at all.

Driving the news: The hearing comes shortly after House Republicans voted to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from leadership over her criticism of former President Trump's actions leading up to and on Jan. 6.

McConnell, McCarthy say 2017 tax law is "red line" in infrastructure talks

The top Republicans in the House and Senate told reporters after meeting with President Biden at the White House that "there is a bipartisan desire to get an outcome" on an infrastructure package, but stressed that revisiting the 2017 tax cuts is a "red line."

Why it matters: Wednesday marked the first time that Biden has hosted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at the White House.