Is Google’s self-drive car too cautious?

12.00 | 16 November 2015 | | 4 comments

 A Google self-drive car has been pulled over by police in the US for driving too slowly (BBC News).

Police in Mountain View, California, stopped the car as it was travelling at 24mph in a 35mph zone.

Google has been working on its self-driving car since 2009 and says that it looks forward “to learning how the community perceives and interacts with us, and uncovering situations that are unique to a fully self-driving vehicle”.

A recent study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, suggested that cars driven by people are more likely to hurt other humans than self-driving cars.

In a post about the incident, the Mountain View police department said an officer “noticed traffic backing up behind a slow-moving car in the eastbound lane”.

It said that the officer stopped the car before making contact with the operators to “learn more about how the car was choosing speeds along certain roadways and to educate the operators about impeding traffic”.

In a light-hearted response to the incident, Google said: “Driving too slowly? Bet humans don’t get pulled over for that too often.”

The search engine giant added: “We’ve capped the speed of our prototype vehicles at 25mph for safety reasons. We want them to feel friendly and approachable, rather than zooming scarily through neighbourhood streets.

“Like this officer, people sometimes flag us down when they want to know more about our project. After 1.2 million miles of autonomous driving (that’s the human equivalent of 90 years of driving experience), we’re proud to say we’ve never been ticketed!”

The Mountain View Police Department confirmed that it meets regularly with Google to ensure that its self-driving vehicles operate safely in the community.

Photo credit: Google.



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    Under circumstances where I find myself tailgated by drivers I will pull over and let them pass. I am hindering their progress if I don’t and I would rather have them in front and away as opposed to being close up behind me. The other day coming back from Yorkshire on an A road, the default limit was 60 mph. A car in front was doing 35 to 40 mph. I would be 6th car behind and at one point I estimated a further 20 plus vehicles behind me.

    I could have had words with the driver as he was to my mind driving without reasonable consideration for other road users just like a middle lane crawler would be on a motorway. What he should have done was look in his rear view mirrors and seen the traffic jam he had caused and like a tractor driver he should have taken an opportunity to pull over and let traffic pass.

    By his actions and that of others I saw there could have easily been a pile up should one car have stopped suddenly. Two cars directly in front and being driven at 40 mph for about 4 miles were only 20 ft apart from the each other and the car in front. They would have had no chance if the car in front had stopped or even just braked. As a result of that I was giving greater space to these cars and the car behind me was a good safe distance behind me. Why do drivers follow like sheep?

    Bob Craven lancs. Space is Safe Campaigner
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    I frequently drive along the roads in my vicinity at 40mph where the speed limit is 60mph and often have other cars catch me up. Should I be fined or banned? For reasons of safety I drive the way I do where I do – country lanes with farm gateways demand vigilance, and most that catch me up are only concerned with how fast they can go, and seem oblivious to possible dangers. Who is to judge what is too slow?

    Derek Reynolds, Salop.
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    As it happened, a friend was pulled up by the police in the early 1970’s for driving her Austin A35 so slowly along a High Street that the officer told her that he would arrest her if she did it again.

    More importantly, Google’s response suggests that that they believe slower is always safer – one of the worst mistakes perpetrated by the authorities in recent years. In fact anyone driving 10 or 20mpgh slower than most of the other traffic is a danger to himself and to others.

    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
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    How did the driverless car ‘know’ that the officer wanted it to stop I wonder? Did the occupant possibly have to take over the controls, because the car was not programmed to recognise whatever signals the officer was using to stop the car?

    It would be interesting to know what factors influenced the vehicle to do that particular speed at that particular time – ‘it’ might have been aware of something that the officer wasn’t – but how would it be able to tell the officer that? All sorts of interesting scenarios can arise with driverless cars which have probably not been thought of by their developers.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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