Google secretly testing cars that drive themselves

Google has been secretly testing cars that can drive themselves using artificial intelligence, according to a report from the New York Times.

According to the report, Google has been testing the cars on the highway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, with someone behind the wheel in case anything goes wrong. The cars use artificial intelligence to sense if anything is nearby and mimic the decisions made by a human driver.

To date, seven test cars have driven more than 1,000 miles without any human intervention and have traveled another 140,000 miles with occasional human intervention. One car managed to navigate San Francisco's Lombard Street — known for being one of the curviest, steepest streets in the U.S. — in on its own. 

Engineers on the project told the Times that computers react more quickly than humans and aren't capable of becoming tired, distracted or drunk. They said the only accident concerning the auto-piloted cars came when one was rear-ended at a stoplight.

The engineers say the technology could eventually allow double the number of cars to travel on roads by packing them much more tightly together. They said the computer-driven cars would be less likely to crash, allowing manufacturers to build lighter and more fuel-efficient vehicles. More than 37,000 people died in car accidents in the U.S. in 2008.