Google’s self-driving cars, that are designed without a steering wheel and brakes, have been facing a lot of difficulties with the current safety regulations in the US which dictate that a vehicle must allow a person to actually drive the car and have manual controls.
Chris Urmson, the director of Google’s self-driving car program, during a Senate hearing expressed his opinion that the US Transport Secretary should be given authority over the matter of setting self-driving car legislation rather than leaving the decision to each of the individual states. He also reassured that it would be safer if passengers were not able to manually override the vehicle’s autonomous system.
The purpose of Google speaking with the US Government was to try to convince it to give the Department of Transportation more authority to open up the roadways to the autonomous cars. Urmson argued with the fact that it would become completely impractical to operate these cars across state boundaries if the states had their own laws and regulations on self-driving cars. Also, this would hinder the growth of this highly potential car-tech industry. What this new wave of driverless cars means for consumers car insurance is anyones guess at this stage, one can only presume that insurance will be cheaper in the future.
These self-driven cars rely solely on sensor and camera data to drive themselves. It is one of the reasons why there is so much concern over the safety of the passengers as well as other vehicles on the road. These risks posed by Google’s self-driving cars were highlighted in February when one of the cars collided with a bus in Santa Clara, California during the trial phase.
Another major issue with these cars is their vulnerability to malicious behaviour. For instance, it is quite easy to spoof with their GPS by hacking into their systems and driving them off the course. There is also a laser device available in the market that can trick the self-driving cars into sensing objects or obstacles which are not really there. Additionally, it may possibly be difficult to operate these cars in bad weather conditions, which can cause mishaps if not controlled manually.
One of the Senators, Cory Booker supported Urmson on his statement by saying that US was the first country to introduce legislation which permitted the testing of self-driven cars. However, with the delay in passing the law, other countries like UK and Japan have rapidly been moving forward.
Ensuring that Google’s autonomous car fleet has regulatory approval to get on the roads is critical to Google’s US car strategy and may possibly impact the market growth for automotive industry.