Google’s just-released report detailing when human drivers took control of a self-driving robot car underscores the need for a driver behind a steering wheel of a self-driving car, Consumer Watchdog said today.
The non-partisan, non-profit public interest group also called on Google to release any videos of the incidents, as well as technical data gathered immediately preceding the disengagements.
The incident reports are mandated by California DMV draft regulations.
“The DMV got it exactly right and is putting our safety first,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “How can Google propose a car with no steering wheel, brakes or driver when its own tests show that over 15 months the robot technology failed and handed control to the driver 272 times and a test driver felt compelled to intervene 69 times?”
Currently California has regulations covering testing robot cars on the state’s highways, which require a driver behind a steering wheel capable of taking control. The test rules also require companies testing self-driving cars to file disengagement reports with the department.
“Release of the disengagement report was a positive step, but Google should also make public any video it has of the disengagement incidents, as well as any technical data it collected so we can fully understand what went wrong as it uses our public roads as its private laboratory,” Simpson said.
Seven companies that were approved for testing self-driving cars in 2014 were required to file disengagement reports with the DMV by Jan. 1. The seven are Volkswagen Group of America, Mercedes Benz, Google, Delphi, Tesla, Bosch and Nissan. A DMV spokeswoman said the department expects to post the disengagement reports on its website.
Last month the DMV issued draft regulations for the general use of robot cars on the state’s roads that will, like the testing regulations, require a driver behind the wheel capable of taking control.
Google, which is testing 53 robot cars in California and Texas, said it was “gravely disappointed” and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said the “draft regulations may prove too onerous, create road blocks to innovation, and may ultimately drive the development of this promising industry to other states.”
“It’s imperative the DMV continue to put public safety first, and not cave to corporate and political pressure,” said Simpson. The department will hold public workshops to discuss the draft rules on Jan. 28 in Sacramento and on Feb. 2 in Los Angeles.
Volkswagen Group of America, Mercedes Benz, Google, Delphi Automotive, Tesla Motors, Bosch, Nissan, Cruise Automation, BMW, Honda and Ford are now approved to test robot cars on California roads.