Consumer Watchdog today called on Google to release the reports of accidents involving its driverless cars that have been filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles and to commit to making public all future driverless car accident reports.
“It is important that the public know what happened,” wrote John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director, in a letter to Google. “You are testing driverless vehicles on public highways, quite possibly putting other drivers at risk.”
“Unbelievably Google is planning to offer its robot cars without a steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator so there would be no way for a person to take control in an emergency,” said Simpson today. “That plan underscores the need for the public to know the full details of all accidents.”
Consumer Watchdog learned that there had been accidents involving Google’s robot cars when the nonprofit nonpartisan public interest group filed a Public Records Act request with the California Department of Motor Vehicles seeking communications between Google and the department. However, the DMV treats driverless car accident reports confidentially and would not release them.
“You want to eliminate the most basic safeguard, a licensed driver able to take control, in your proposed driverless vehicles. This aim makes it even more important for the public to understand any accidents that occur involving your vehicles during the testing phase,” Simpson wrote. “Rather than hide behind the cloak of DMV confidentiality, Google should disclose the accident report and the full details of the incident. We also call on you to commit to making all future accident reports public.”
DMV rules also require companies testing driverless cars to report the details of all incidents when the robot technology was disengaged and the test driver had to assume control. Consumer Watchdog called on Google to make the disengagement reports public as well.
Consumer Watchdog’s letter to the Google executives concluded:
“Google has engaged in a highly visible public relations campaign extolling the supposed virtues of driverless cars. It is incumbent upon you to be candid about the cars’ failings and shortcomings as well. Your stated mission is ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.’ Sadly, in practice, you’ve modified this to be ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible – except when it is about Google.’ Please treat yourselves as you would treat everyone else. Release DMV driverless car accident reports and details of your driverless car accidents. Make the autonomous technology disengagement reports public as well.”