Google’s driverless cars should watch out for consumers, DMV & squirrels

consumerwatchdogThere are consumer advocates watching out for driverless self-driving cars and the safety of drivers, pedestrians, traffic cops and more. Consumer Watchdog sent a letter the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Today, Consumer Watchdog warned the California DMV that it shouldn’t let Google and others with a vested interest in developing driverless vehicles to push the DMV into issuing rules that are inadequate to protect public safety.

The group reports many problems with Google driverless car sensors due to weather, inability to recognize human hand signals, sun light interference and reliance on pre-mapped roads.

The driverless cars’ video sensors can’t reliably distinguish between a tree branch blowing in the wind and a pedestrian.

While we were at CES, we looked at the height of the sensors and asked what would happen if a squirrel, Chihuahua, kitten or even an adorable Maltipoo puppy ran across the road. The engineer stopped the interview and asked us to stop recording the video. From the location of the sensors and their inability to sense hands, they may make a for a lot of cute adorable creatures turned into roadkill.

The decision on whether to allow a particular manufacturer’s driverless cars to be offered to the public should be informed by the results of safety testing that is being done under the DMV testing regulations now in effect, suggests Consumer Watchdog.

The DMV recently missed a deadline for final regulations and is still working on driverless car public use regulations.

Safety issues are paramount, Consumer Watchdog said, but there are other substantial questions about privacy, data security and insurance that are also raised by driverless cars. The DMV regulations now being written governing the public use of autonomous vehicles should deal with these important questions as well.

Insurance issues will remain primarily the responsibility of the California Department of Insurance.  Nonetheless, the DMV should be cognizant of the fact that some of its decisions, such as requiring a human driver be able to take control will impact insurance policy, the group said.

Consumer Watchdog wants the DMV to ensure the public interest is put ahead of the self-serving agendas of the autonomous vehicle technology manufacturers.

Just as it is today under our product liability laws, responsibility for an accident will be allocated to manufacturers of hardware or software whose product was responsible for an accident or injuries.
Consumer Watchdog strongly supports the development of new automotive technologies, particularly those that will prevent deaths and injuries (and reduce dependence on fossil fuels but contends that safety should come first.