Google Reveals Some Robot Car Crash Details After Repeated Calls From Consumer Watchdog; Public Interest Group Says More Accident Information Is Necessary

SANTA MONICA, CA – After repeated calls for disclosure from Consumer Watchdog, Google today said it would issue regular reports offering some details of crashes involving its driverless cars.  The public interest group said more details are still needed.

Google released its first of what it said would be monthly reports on a website dedicated to the driverless car project. Included in the report is a synopsis written by Google of the twelve accidents since it began testing the robot cars in 2009.

“We now know a few more details of what happened,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “The problem is that it’s Google’s version and they want us to take their word for it.”

Consumer Watchdog said the Internet giant must release official accident reports that include not only the Internet giant’s version of what happened, but what the other drivers and any witnesses say.

Consumer Watchdog has repeatedly called on Google to release the official reports, most recently when Simpson confronted Google executives on the issue at the annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday.

Crash reports are essential to understanding how the robot cars interact with human drivers, which likely will be the biggest challenge the vehicles will face, Consumer Watchdog said.  In most of the crashes the Google robot cars were rear-ended.  That could mean that the vehicles tend to stop more quickly than human drivers expect.

Another interesting fact learned from the report was that in two of the crashes the human driver assumed control as it was happening. More details are necessary to understand what happens when human drivers take control.

“Google is dribbling out bits information in the hope to silence legitimate calls for full transparency,” said Simpson. “They are testing on public roads and the public has a right to know exactly what happened when something goes wrong.”

View a video of Simpson’s question at the shareholders meeting here:

View Google’s May driverless car report here:

View Consumer Watchdog’s video highlighting some of the safety and privacy concerns with driverless cars here:


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Published by John M. Simpson

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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