Consumer Watchdog Group Agitating For Transparent Testing Of Automated Vehicles

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Toronto, Ontario — October 13, 2015 — The California Department of Motor Vehicles has announced it will post all autonomous vehicle accident reports on its website. The move comes after a citizens' group, Consumer Watchdog, suggested the DMV make the reports more easily available.

In a press release announcing the action, an executive with Consumer Watchdog, John Simpson, outlined concerns that have come up following the recent surge in testing of automated vehicles (AVs).

“Our highways are being used as corporate laboratories for robot car makers,” said Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director. “It’s essential that the public have readily available as many details as possible about what happened when something goes wrong.”

The hype around automated vehicles has exploded over the last year. Car companies see AVs as the next big thing. The industry is rapidly rolling out testing initiatives. Universities hoping to get in on the action are announcing the creation of AV testing facilities. But some, the executives of Consumer Watchdog among them, are concerned about how this profound shift in our transportation infrastructure is rolling out. The press release from Consumer Watchdog said the group welcomes the added transparency and praises the California DMV’s latest action. But Simpson said further steps are necessary to ensure that information about the way in which AVs are operating is completely open and transparent.

Consumer Watchdog is also petitioning the DMV for a rulemaking process that would amend robot car testing regulations to require police to investigate crashes and to require copies of any video or technical data gathered by the robot vehicle related to the crash be provided to the department.

“Under the current regulations, the Department relies completely on the testing company’s account of what happened. With the public’s safety at stake, it’s imperative that a neutral third party investigates any accident involving a robot car,” wrote Simpson, in the petition to the DMV.

Not since the introduction of the car in the early decades of the 19th century has the transportation industry contemplated such a dramatic shift in the way North Americans move themselves. So it is no surprise Consumer Watchdog has taken a proactive approach to ensuring transparency around the results of AV testing, but there do not seem to be any Canadian consumer protection groups taking a similar stance.

In the US the current regime regarding testing regulations is that manufacturers must provide the DMV with a report of the crash within 10 business days of the incident. The DMV has posted all nine crash reports it has received since companies were required to file them last September. Eight of the crashes involved Google cars. One involved a Delphi vehicle. Google was involved in eight additional crashes before reporting was required for a total of 16 accidents since it began testing robot cars. The DMV said it will issue a news alert when a new crash report is posted.

Currently there are ten companies approved by the DMV to test robot cars on California’s highways. The companies currently testing AVs are: Volkswagen Group of America, Mercedes Benz, Google, Delphi Automotive, Tesla Motors, Bosch, Nissan, Cruise Automation, BMW and Honda.

The official accident reports can be found on the DMV’s website at this link.

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