Google Renames Robot Car Unit “Waymo” Reminding Us We Need to Know “Way More”

Tue, Dec 13, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Google Renames Robot Car Unit “Waymo” Reminding Us We Need to Know “Way More”

    Company Correctly Backs Away from Offering Vehicles Without Steering Wheel and Pedals

    SANTA MONICA, CA – Google’s new name for its robot car division, “Waymo,” fits, Consumer Watchdog said today, because it reminds us that we must know “way more” about robot cars and the serious policy issues they raise before self-driving cars can be safely deployed.

    In announcing the new stand-alone robot car company CEO John Krafcik said self-driving cars would come with steering wheels and pedals for now, an apparent reversal of earlier plans. He said the company won’t make cars, but will partner with traditional automakers.

    “Google – now Waymo – needs to tell the public way more about how their robot car systems work and what ethical choices are programmed into their secret algorithms,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director. “But, admitting that robot cars aren’t really ready to be put on our roads without steering wheels and the capability for a human driver to take control is an important acknowledgment of reality.”

    Consumer Watchdog said that more information is critical to understanding the state and safety of self-driving technology. For example, data that is provided in the disengagement reports required by the California Department of Motor Vehicles showing when the robot driver failed in cars being tested. Google’s last disengagement report said its self-driving technology failed 341 times in 425,000 miles – 272 times because the software couldn’t cope, turning over control to the test driver and 69 times when the driver decided to intervene for safety reasons. The next disengagement reports are due to be filed with the DMV Jan. 1, 2017.

    Google says the robot car company’s new name, “Waymo,” stands for “Way forward in mobility.”

    “Google may want go forward,” said Simpson, “but there is way mo’ we need to know before they are allowed to.”


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    John M. Simpson

    - who has written 414 posts on Inside Google.

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