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

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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 Traffic Safety 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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John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson is an American consumer rights advocate and former journalist. Since 2005, he has worked for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan nonprofit public interest group, as the lead researcher on Inside Google, the group's effort to educate the public about Google's dominance over the internet and the need for greater online privacy.

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