One of tech giant Google’s self-driving cars was recently pulled over by the Police in California because it was driving too slowly.
Although no action was taken against the car or the operator, it has again raised the question over whether the cars are programmed to be far too cautious.
At the time the car was pulled over, it was travelling at 24mph in 35mph zone, and was apparently holding up quite a large queue of traffic. The police officer pulled over the car and gave some advice to the operators about the need for responsible driving in order to not impede other road users.
Google has always maintained with its AV’s (Autonomous Vehicles) that it “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.”
But there is a problem, in that while the Google vehicles are programmed to obey all aspects of the rules of the road, humans are not and do not. And the main problem identified by Google’s developers is the fact they must make their cars less polite and thoughtful and more humanistic in their approach on the road.
This is one of the biggest challenges, and while erring on the side of caution and taking into account the safety of pedestrians and other road users may seem like a good approach, it actually resulted in an accident earlier this year when a Google AV took a cautious stance at a pedestrian crossing, resulting in a driver, who did not share the same level of caution, driving into the back of it.
This is the first accident that a Google AV has been involved in. That said, statistics show that over 90% of car accidents are caused by human error, and it is widely acknowledged that the widespread introduction of self-drive cars will drastically reduce the number of road accidents and casualties across the world each year.