Watchdog Group Wary of Google's Driverless Cars

Santa Monica organization calls on DMV to lengthen testing time frame for road tests of tech giant's fleet

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Google

    A Westside group is calling on California’s Department of Motor Vehicles to slow the rush to get self-driving vehicles on the road, less than a month before residents can begin applying for permits to be test drivers for the cars.

    The director of Santa Monica-headquartered Consumer Watchdog issued an open letter to DMV chief Jean Shimoto urging the agency to extend the length of time testing will be required and add more public comment before the cars are allowed on the road.

    John Simpson said the current timeframe doesn’t allow enough time for safety concerns to be addressed.

    The letter pointed to Google Inc.’s plans for a testing fleet of 100 driverless cars with no steering wheels, brake pedals or accelerators.

    “There would be no way for an occupant to take control in an emergency,” Simpson wrote. “Occupants would be captives of Google’s technology, completely at the Internet giant’s mercy.”

    The DMV begins accepting applications to license testers of the new cars July 1. Driverless cars will be allowed on the road beginning Sept. 16, with reports on study findings due Jan. 1, 2016.

    But a state law requires the agency to adopt regulations for both testing and public use of driverless cars by Jan. 1, 2015 -- well before testing reports will be available.

    In a blog post about the cars, Google said the first versions will have manual controls.

    "We’re planning to build about a hundred prototype vehicles, and later this summer, our safety drivers will start testing early versions of these vehicles that have manual controls," the post reads.

    "If all goes well, we’d like to run a small pilot program here in California in the next couple of years."

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