Google Robot Car Sideswipes Bus On Valentines Day; Consumer Watchdog Reiterates Call For Police Investigation, Release of Video and Technical Data Tied To Crash

SANTA MONICA, CA – A Valentine’s Day crash in which a self-driving Google robot car sideswiped a bus demonstrates the need for a police investigation and the release of technical data and video associated with the crash, Consumer Watchdog said today.

Google’s account of the crash was posted on the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ website today and the self-driving robot car appears to have been at fault.

Consumer Watchdog petitioned the DMV on Sept. 24, 2015 calling for every robot car accident to be investigated by police and accompanied by a release of technical and video data associated with the crash  The nonprofit nonpartisan group has advocated for DMV rules, currently in draft form, that require robot cars to have the ability for a human driver to take over. Google has opposed those rules.

“This accident is more proof that robot car technology is not ready for auto pilot and a human driver needs to be able to takeover when something goes wrong. Google’s one-paragraph account of what caused it to drive into a bus is not good enough to inform new rules of the road for robot cars,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director.  “The police should be called to the site of every robot car crash and all technical data and video associated with the accident must be made public.”

According to the report on the DMV’s website, the car had moved into the right side of the lane at a traffic light to make a right turn on red, but was blocked by sandbags.  The traffic light turned green and several cars started through the intersection.  The Google robot car moved back toward the center of the lane to go around the sand bags and sideswiped the bus, which was passing, the report says.

View Google’s accident report to the DMV here:

Consumer Watchdog said that the crash was further proof that Google’s self-driving robot cars cannot reliably cope with everyday ordinary driving situations.   In early January Google released a DMV-required “disengagement report” revealing that the self-driving technology failed 341 times in 15 months.  The autonomous robot technology turned over control 272 times and the test driver felt compelled to intervene 69 times.

The California DMV’s proposed regulations for the deployment of self-driving vehicles require that there be a driver be wheel capable of taking control.  The National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration has recently said that a self-driving system can count as the driver of an autonomous robot car.

Consumer Watchdog called on Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind to put safety first and require a driver behind the wheel as national self-driving car policies are developed.

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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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