Friday, November 13, 2015

Google Car gets pulled over for driving too slowly

In Mountain View, CA, a Google self-driving car was pulled over for driving too slowly on El Camino Real. An officer in the area noticed traffic backing up behind the vehicle, which was traveling 24 mph at a 35 mph zone. The officer stopped the car and "made contact with the operators to learn more about how the car was choosing speeds along certain roadways and to educate the operators about impeding traffic."

The Google Self-Driving Project posted about the incident on its Google+ page, stating that they had "capped the speed of our prototype vehicles at 25 mph for safety reasons. We want them to feel friendly and approachable, rather than zooming scarily through neighborhood streets." The page also stated that after 1.2 miles of driving with these cars, none of them have been ticketed.

According to the Guardian, Google's prototype cars are allowed drive on public roads, but only in 35 mph zones. The Mountain View Police Department responded, stating that "In this case, it was lawful for the car to be traveling on the street as El Camino Real is rated at 35 mph.” The department added, “The Mountain View police department meets regularly with Google to ensure that their vehicles operate safely in our community."

Furthermore, in a blog post from the Mountain View Police Department, Google cars operate under the Neighborhood Vehicle Definition per 385.5 of the California Vehicle Code, and that it was lawful for the car to be traveling on the street, as El Camino Real is rated at 35 mph.

A while back, there was an article about Google's self-driving cars and their problem of being too lenient and cautious. Is capping the vehicles at 25 mph a bad thing? What do you think about Google's reasoning for this incident? How do you feel about potential driverless cars in the streets in the future? What does this say about the time we live in, which is often considered the digital age? Do you think these cars a necessity? According to the official page, Google cars promote safety and allow people who cannot drive to get around. Will these cars encourage other drivers to be more cautious?

Mountain View Police BlogNBCThe Guardian, GeekWire, Official Google Page (and photo credit)


Andrew Wang said...

I think that for now, the 25 mph maximum speed limit imposed my Google is a smart thing to do. For one, the 25 mph limit is probably the optimal "safe speed" for the car, and that through a lot of testing, they probably concluded car was perfect for collecting data at those speeds. Google has been very open with the project, constantly pushing monthly updates on the project. In these reports, they breakdown the accidents that had the Google Self Driving car might have been involved in. Compared to Tesla's new self driving project, Google has been pretty open about it. However, according to the MIT Technology Review, the major disability this car has not been only the speed limit, but also being able to prove itself in rainy or snowy conditions. Along with not being able to prove itself in those conditions, it cannot effectively deal with debris on the road, and will often overreact when something is in the way. I think that if the speed limit was any higher, it would probably be dangerous.


Nicholas Tong1 said...

I agree with Andrew that if the speed limit were any higher, its inability to negotiate unexpected and random situations would make it extra dangerous. Furthermore, it's better that the car delays schedules and annoys drivers rather than cause injuries or even kill.

Furthermore, though this is a fairly new type of problem, in retrospect this type of situation is probably unavoidable. Before a self-driving car can be sold to the public, it certainly has to be tested out in the public to ensure that it works.

That said, I am not totally unsympathetic with the cops. Slow traffic can end up costing more time, money, and fuel for everyone. Perhaps there could be designated areas for Google cars to drive at its current speed?

Jared Mayerson said...

Personally, I think that self driving cars are a super cool invention. I don't think they we'll end up like in "WALL-E," I don't think many will have them when publicly available, but some will. I am happy to get stuck behind these cars occasionally and limiting them to 25 MPH if that makes them safer. After all, there is no driver so increasing their speed could result in less control and more accidents, and possibly death (both passenger and pedestrian/other driver). I agree with Andrew that these cars are still being developed and need to be limited in the mean time. Getting stuck in traffic because of these cars is undesirable but may just have to happen for now.

Andrew Wang said...

In the end, the only way for self driving cars to work is if every car on the road was a smart car, then there would be little to no accidents. However this could potentially transfer a lot of power to the government.

Anna Joshi said...

For now, I don’t believe that capping the vehicles at 25 mph is too much of a bad thing because it is a relatively new technology and since it is unmanned it is better if it can only go at this pace rather than at a faster one in the event it malfunctions and crashes. As for potential driver-less cars in the future, I believe that they do seem promising yet come with a potential serious drawback. Google promotes that these cars will benefit “aging or visually impaired loved ones wouldn’t have to give up their independence” and that “deaths from traffic accidents could be reduced [due to no] human error” (Google). Yet a while back, I remember reading about how Tesla reported that they were successfully able to break into one of their own cars, and subsequently control its driving. Since these Google self-driving cars are much the same in the way that they are “computerized,” it can pose a significant threat to those who have the intent on getting into the system to cause accidents. I wonder though if that will be a significant reason that will hold it back from societal preference, or if the overall benefits will outweigh this possibility?