Google announced it would issue regular reports offering some details of crashes involving its driverless cars following repeated calls for disclosure from Consumer Watchdog. The public interest group said more details are still needed.
Google released its first of what it said would be monthly reports on a website dedicated to the driverless car project. Included in the report is a synopsis written by Google of the 12 accidents since it began testing the robot cars in 2009.
“We now know a few more details of what happened,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “The problem is that it’s Google’s version and they want us to take their word for it.”
Consumer Watchdog said the Internet giant must release official accident reports that include not only the Internet giant’s version of what happened, but what the other drivers and any witnesses say.
Consumer Watchdog has repeatedly called on Google to release the official reports, most recently when Simpson confronted Google executives on the issue at the annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday.
Crash reports are essential to understanding how the robot cars interact with human drivers, which likely will be the biggest challenge the vehicles will face, Consumer Watchdog said. In most of the crashes, the Google robot cars were rear-ended. That could mean that the vehicles tend to stop more quickly than human drivers expect.
Another interesting fact learned from the report was that in two of the crashes, the human driver assumed control as it was happening. More details are necessary to understand what happens when human drivers take control.
“Google is dribbling out bits of information in the hope to silence legitimate calls for full transparency,” said Simpson. “They are testing on public roads, and the public has a right to know exactly what happened when something goes wrong.”
To view a video of Simpson’s question at the shareholders meeting, click here. Click here to view Google’s May driverless car report here. To view Consumer Watchdog’s video highlighting some of the safety and privacy concerns with driverless cars, click here.