Google Frustrated with California DMV Slow Walk on Autonomous Vehicles

A pressure group, self-proclaimed Consumer Watchdog, is telling the California Department of Motor Vehicles to resist pressure from Google and continue at a deliberate pace to ensure regulations covering autonomous cars protect public safety.

Google after a public records act request by the Associated Press revealed an invitation for a meeting because “Our team (Google) is concerned about the delay.” In 2012 California allowed the testing of autonomous or self-driving cars. DMV missed a deadline last January to issue public use rules governing these vehicles with no publication date in sight today.

Google has 73 self-driving cars out of 98 in testing from ten automakers on the road in California under DMV testing rules. However, they have been involved in 17 accidents that Google claims were not the car’s fault.

“Google may have its foot on the accelerator pedal in its mad drive to develop robot cars, but the DMV has admirably served as traffic cop and set reasonable limits that have genuinely protected public safety,” wrote John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project director, in a letter to the DMV. “We call on you to stay on this responsible course and put public safety first.”

Consumer Watchdog has petitioned the department to amend the testing rules to require that police investigate any robot car crash. It also asks that the rules require copies of any technical data and video associated with a robot car crash be turned over to the department.

“We look forward to a positive response to our petition,” CW wrote.

Consumer Watchdog said it is important to remember that the current testing regulations require that companies file “disengagement reports” covering all times and circumstances when a human driver had to take control of a vehicle being tested. The public interest group said those reports covering the period from September 2014 through Nov. 30 are due on Jan. 1 and should be made public.

CW said that another factor that “must be considered in developing the rules” is the way the robot cars interact with human drivers. “Increasingly, including the Google crash report posted on the DMV website this week, ( there is mounting evidence that the robot cars don’t behave the way humans expect.”

The ten companies testing robot cars on public highways are Volkswagen Group of America, Mercedes Benz, Google, Delphi Automotive, Tesla Motors, Bosch, Nissan, Cruise Automation, BMW and Honda. Read the robot car crash reports filed with the DMV:

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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