Santa Monica, California — October 1, 2012 — Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a driverless car law into effect at a ceremony at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. According to advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, the law poses threats to safety and privacy.
SB 1298 directs the Department of Motor Vehicles to write regulations covering robot cars by January 2015, but the Legislature didn’t require Google to come back for final approval before the driverless cars go from testing stage to the car lot. The law, written by Sen. Alex Padilla, provides no real privacy protections, the nonpartisan, nonprofit group said.
“Substantial safety and liability questions remain,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “On the privacy issue, the law gives the user no control over what data will be gathered and how the information will be used.”
Consumer Watchdog said that there is little question that driverless car technology will become a reality. The problem is the way the Legislature and Governor rushed to endorse the technology without considering its ramifications.
“What this demonstrates more than anything else is Google’s ability to dazzle and get its way,” said Simpson. “The governor and many legislators have been taken for a ride by Google, and I don’t just mean in the Internet giant’s driverless test vehicles.”
While questions do remain, for the time being, the law does not give carte blanche to Google to send driverless cars on to roads. According to Sharon Ashley, Business Development Manager, Canada for Summit Software and Marketing Solutions, “There needs to be an actual licensed drvier in the vehicle in case they need to take control of the vehicle.”
But Consumer Watchdog warns that rushed technological policy shifts have seen some poor results for California in the past. The last time Sacramento moved so quickly on such an extraordinary technological policy shift was over electricity deregulation, which ended with unprecedented massive blackouts engineered by energy companies like Enron, Consumer Watchdog said.
The time to ensure that the new driverless car technology has the necessary safety and privacy protections is while it is being designed and developed, according to Consumer Watchdog. Trying to catch up after a new technology is developed and broadly implemented simply will not work.
“Google has repeatedly demonstrated that it only pays lip service to privacy concerns and repeatedly violated consumers’ privacy,” said Simpson. “Consumers must have the right to give opt-in consent before any data gathered through driverless car technology is used for any purpose other than driving the vehicle.”
Again, it is clear that driverless car technology is coming, so collision repairers need to be aware of the potential impact that this technology might have on their businesses and the industry in the mid to long range future.
“From a collision perspective, I think the body shops need to be prepared for the future as technology continues to change and they need to be prepared to invest in both their staff and equipment,” said Ashley. “Without ongoing training and more sophisticated tools that will be required to repair these types of vehicles, we could see a great deal of poorly repaired cars in the not too distant future.”