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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

Bipartisan group of senators seeks coronavirus stimulus deal

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

At least eight Republican and Democratic senators have formed an informal working group aimed at securing new coronavirus spending during the lame-duck session, a move favored by President-elect Biden, two sources familiar with the group tell Axios.

Why it matters: It may be the most significant bipartisan step toward COVID relief in months.

FCC chairman to depart in January

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Ajit Pai will leave his post as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Jan. 20, the agency said today.

Why it matters: Pai's Inauguration Day departure is in keeping with agency tradition, and could set up the Biden administration with a 2-1 Democratic majority at the FCC if the Senate fails to confirm another Trump nominee during the lame-duck period.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

GM's shrinking deal with Nikola

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

General Motors will no longer take an equity stake in Nikola Corp. or build its pickup truck, under a revised deal that still envisions GM as a key tech supplier for Nikola's planned line of electric and fuel cell heavy trucks.

Driving the news: The revised agreement Monday is smaller in scope than a draft partnership rolled out in September that had included a $2 billion stake in the startup and an agreement to build its Badger pickup.