Google Inc (NASDAQ GOOG) has said that it will install steering wheels and pedals in the 100 prototype cars that are coming out soon to comply with the new law, reports Alistair Barr for The Wall Street Journal. The California Department of Motor Vehicles has decided that it won’t allow autonomous cars to drive on public roads unless there is a ‘natural person’ who is able to take over the controls, in a new rule aimed squarely at Google’s driverless cars.
The new DMV rules clarify who’s responsible for operating the driverless cars, but probably don’t make them any safer. While Google Inc (NASDAQ GOOG) engineers are probably annoyed at the need for an ad hoc steering system, the California DMV’s rules aren’t a major setback and Google expects to keep to its original schedule. Under the DMV rules a ‘natural person’ has to be at the wheel paying attention in case he or she needs to take over control of the car.
Realistically, this sounds like a terrible solution. Most of the time people will let the driverless car do its thing (stay under 25 mph and drive very conservatively), only intervening in a panic when their reflexes and decision making are most likely to be worse than well-programmed machines. While California wants people involved at critical moments on the road, the Federal government is moving in the opposite direction.
Google Inc (NASDAQ GOOG) News: Driverless Cars
The new rules also show that Google Inc (NASDAQ GOOG) still has a long way to go before convincing people to accept autonomous robots in their everyday life.
There are plans underway for ‘normal Californians,’ which probably means people who don’t work at Google or believe in the singularity, to ride in the driverless cars, but the biggest test will be how long the cars can go without getting into an accident.
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Google Inc Financial News (NASDAQ GOOG)
While not exactly related to driverless cars, it is funny that the California DMV rules stipulate that a ‘natural person’ either driving or ready to take over. There had been some questions about who would be legally responsible in case of an accident or moving violation, and while Google Inc (NASDAQ GOOG) was quick to accept responsibility it sounds like the DMV isn’t interested in writing tickets to a ‘corporate person’.
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