Are We Ready for the Driverless Car? One Group Says 'No!'


driverless car
Google Driverless Car

SANTA MONICA, CA--June 10, 2014: Consumer Watchdog today warned the California Department of Motor Vehicles not to succumb to pressure from Google and others with a vested interest in developing "driverless cars" to rush to adopt regulations for the pubic use of the vehicles that are inadequate to protect our safety.

"We urge the DMV to follow a sensible and deliberate approach that would require adequate testing and time to analyze the test results," wrote John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director, in a letter to DMV Director Jean Shiomoto.

Read Consumer Watchdog's letter here: Consumer Watchdog Driverless

The DMV has just published regulations that take effect Sept. 16 governing manufacturers' testing of autonomous vehicles – "driverless cars" -- on California highways. The department is now drafting regulations that will regulate the public use of the vehicles and expects to adopt them late in December.

"In the ideal rule-making process, regulations covering the public use of autonomous vehicles would not be adopted until they could be informed by the results of testing that was done under DMV regulation," wrote Simpson. "Unfortunately the Legislature, under pressure from Google and the tech industry, required in SB 1298 that the regulations for both testing and public use be adopted by Jan. 1, 2015."

Consumer Watchdog noted that the testing rules require reports explaining when and why a test driver had to take over operation of the car and the details of any accidents. The first such testing reports would cover the period from when a test vehicle received a permit – presumably Sept. 16 – through Nov. 30, 2015. These reports would be due by Jan. 1, 2016.

Consumer Watchdog urged the DMV's public use driverless car rules to include a provision that a driverless car must be tested for at least a year under DMV regulation and that at least six months be given to analyze the test results before a vehicle could be offered to the public. Under Consumer Watchdog's proposed regulation, the earliest time a "driverless car" could be approved for public use on California's highways would be July 1, 2016.

"We call on the DMV to ensure the safety of the public is put well ahead of the self-serving agendas of the manufactures," wrote Simpson. "There can be no doubt that Google is pushing to deploy autonomous vehicles as fast as it can. The Department of Motor Vehicles must not succumb to the Internet giant's pressure."

One of the key safety provisions of the testing regulations is the requirement that there must be a test driver in the driver's seat who is capable of assuming control of the car if there is a problem, Consumer Watchdog said.

"Little more than a week after the DMV adopted the testing regulations, Google announced plans for a fleet of driverless cars that have no steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator," wrote Simpson. "There would be no way for an occupant to take control in an emergency; occupants would be captives of Google's technology, completely at the Internet giant's mercy."

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