Google fires back on proposed self-driving car rules

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

California proposes rules for self driving vehicles.

Yesterday, the California DMV posted a draft of proposed regulations for self-driving vehicles. SAN FRANCISCO – Google’s self-driving car chief is adamant that the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ draft proposal on autonomous vehicle rules is misguided and threatens to rob key constituents of the benefits of driverless vehicles, including the blind and infirm.Two developments yesterday have strengthened the rent-rather-than-own model of driverless cars: California issued tough driverless regulations, and Google is reportedly setting up a standalone company specializing in ride shares.

Witnessing driverless cars on real roads seemed like a concept reserved for sci-fi films not too long ago, but the world’s tech and automobile leaders have aggressively developed prototypes of such vehicles in the past few years. Obviously, Google was waiting to see what came down and now that they’ve had some time to look through it all, their head of the Self-Driving unit, Chris Urmson, has responded with a Medium post.

In a direct response to the DMV’s proposed regulations, which were released Wednesday, Google executive and robotic-car expert Chris Urmson wrote a blog post Thursday on Medium.com blasting the rules as a step back from progressive 2012 state regulations that allowed for the development of occupant-as-passenger vehicles without a steering wheel or pedals. Google’s driverless cars are reportedly part of Alphabet’s secretive X division that experiments with new technologies and has reportedly been testing autonomous vehicles in California since 2009. Shockingly, it appears that the technology is almost there, but what really stands in the way are regulations surrounding the widespread integration of autonomous vehicles into busy streets.

The new DMV rules, which will be debated twice in 2016 before being voted on, specifically note that such vehicles must have a licensed driver in the car at all times in order to be able to take control in the case of an emergency. Not to mention that the big pitch behind autonomous driving technology is to help people who can not or do not want to drive because they are disabled, drunk or just too busy doing other things. He conjures up the “shackles of stressful commutes, wasted hours, and restricted mobility” to drive home the freedom he believes Google’s self-driving technology represents. The operator, who would need both a regular driver’s license and an “autonomous vehicle operator certificate” issued by the DMV, would be responsible for all traffic violations that occur during travel. Libertarian think tank R Street calls out California for requiring vehicles be tested and certified by third-party testing bodies that don’t now exist, and that autonomous vehicle operators hold a special “operating certificate” in addition to a traditional driver’s license.

Firstly, manufacturers must certify that their autonomous cars comply with safety and performance standards and must allow the vehicles to undergo an independent performance verification carried out by a third-party. As controlled testing of driverless cars continues, California has broken new ground by releasing the world’s first regulations regarding their use alongside human-controlled vehicles. He also says that Google regularly solicits feedback from residents in Mountain View, California, and Austin, Texas — the two towns where its driverless vehicles are out in force — about their feelings toward autonomous cars.

Though what this “approval” might look like is unclear, the mandate brings to mind some future Google self-driving vehicle terms of service agreement that requires passengers to acknowledge everything they say over the course of the ride will be analyzed to enable the company to display ads based on conversation topics. To him, this informal surveying should obviate the need for any new regulations. “All of this is to say that people are telling us daily that fully self-driving cars are worth a shot,” he writes. A Northern California workshop to obtain public input has been scheduled for 10 a.m. on January 28 at the Harper Alumni Center at California State University, Sacramento, 6000 J St. At the time, California DMV official Bernard Soriano stated that the organization was drafting rules that would allow cars to be used without controls, but the agency now appears to be wanting to at least delay this step.

According to draft regulations, manufacturers should design an education plan and “behind-the-wheel training program” to teach people how to engage, use, monitor, and disengage the vehicles. Tesla and Nissan said they are now reviewing the draft regulations. “There certainly have to be provisions to protect the public about something that could be put out on the road”. The very concept of Google’s self-driving cars being completely autonomous is prevented simply by the stipulation now drafted by California’s DMV. This maintains the same old status quo and falls short on allowing this technology to reach its full potential, while excluding those who need to get around but cannot drive.

Although the DMV is already a year behind schedule, I look forward to intensified dialogue between the state, manufacturers, and the public to improve the regulations. While we’re disappointed by this, we will continue to work with the DMV as they seek feedback in the coming months, in the hope that we can recapture the original spirit of the bill.

We must guard against unreasonably holding back California from doing what it does best, inventing the future.” In July, Newsom attended an Audi event at Sonoma Raceway that found the politician riding shotgun in a special Audi model that was capable of racing around the track at high speeds without any input from the driver. Google has been pretty damn transparent when it comes to their self-driving project, even publishing monthly reports that talk about accidents that took place and learnings from the team.

The latter company in particular would struggle to fully test any driverless taxi concepts it might have on local public roads given the new requirements. Google says safety is its highest priority and says it is gravely disappointed that the state is already putting a cap on the technology’s potential. So although we’re not quite at the point of hopping to a driverless car that gets us where we need to go while we totally disengage from the road ourselves, this is a big step in that direction. After all, cars that can safely drive themselves under all conditions wouldn’t rely on drivers who may be drowsy, distracted, buzzed – or unable to drive due to their age or a disability.

Putting more and more autonomous vehicles on the streets in controlled, safe conditions allow manufacturers to gather more data and improve the technology such that a Minority Report-esque world isn’t too far off at all. There’s no “winners” or “losers” here yet, but the conversation about self-driving cars isn’t starting off the way that Google and other companies have hoped.

Google plans to make its self-driving cars unit, which will offer rides for hire, a stand-alone business under its parent company Alphabet Inc next year, Bloomberg reported. Consumers simply don’t know enough about the technology to weigh in yet, which is why Google is trying to, and overdoing it sometimes, explain the ins and outs the best they can. What has yet to be worked out are the psychological reactions to being driven by a machine, as well as the social ramifications of accidents and potentially deaths that result not from human negligence but rather a computer glitch. That said, Google’s project leaders like to not only point out the inherent statistical advantage of autonomous cars over human-driven cars, but also note that over the past six years of testing, Google’s cars have driven 1.3 million miles and been in just over a dozen accidents, all the fault of humans in other vehicles.

Multiple veterans have come home from defending our country only to have their return to normal life challenged by their inability to drive themselves around in a car. Thilo Koslowski, head of Gartner’s automotive practice, says the notion of having autonomous car rules “that fall back on the driver defies the value of having a self-driving car.

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