Google driverless car comes under fire

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Google driverless car

Testing the Google driverless car. Image: jurvetson/Flickr/CC BY

A new legislation in California paves the road for the Google driverless car, and other future makes. But some oppose the sate law, saying it will violate the privacy of users.

Google driverless car demonstrates safety

SB 1298 has already been passed by the California Senate. The bill, which goes before the state’s assembly appropriations committee on Thursday, makes autonomous cars legal on the state’s roads and highways. That allows the Motor Vehicles Department to create legislative standards regarding the vehicles.

Google says its driverless car has clocked around 300,000 miles in tests without a single accident. Statistics say that the average motorist has an accident about ever 165,000 miles, so the adoption of such vehicles could save countless lives. Plus, by communicating with one another, autonomous cars could help relieve the congestion that is clogging major urban thoroughfares.

But safety and gridlock are not the issue for some consumer advocates.

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Consumer group addresses privacy concerns

Consumer Watchdog is opposing the legislation on privacy grounds and is urging governor Jerry Brown to veto the bill. According to the consumer group, the bill does not address how Google, or other future makers of driverless cars, will collect and use data about the comings and goings of its users.

The group says the law should mandate that no personal data be recorded or used without customer approval. John M. Simpson, director of the Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project, said:

“Consumers enthusiastically adopted the new technology of the internet. What we were not told was that our use of the information superhighway would be monitored and tracked in order to personalize corporate marketing and make Google a fortune. Now that Google is taking to the freeways, we must prevent inappropriate collection and storage of data about our personal movements and environment.”

Consumer Watchdog has made a special mission of opposing Google’s privacy policies. In 2008, it was awarded a grant of $100,000 from the Rose Foundation to monitor how Google uses the data it collects from users.

Google beats its own drum

Google released its own press, praising the efforts of legislators to pave the way for virtually accident-free highways in the future. However, it made no mention of the issues raised by Consumer Watchdog.

Google issued a statement saying;

“Self-driving cars have the potential to significantly increase driving safety. We applaud … the California legislature for building a thoughtful framework to enable safe, ongoing testing of the technology and to anticipate the needs and best interests of California citizens who may own vehicles with self-driving capabilities one day.”

Autonomous vehicles are coming

California could become the third state to legislate the arrival of autonomous vehicles. Nevada and Florida have already passed similar laws. No matter the outcome, however, there seems little doubt that driverless vehicles are on their way.

While there are no commercial autonomous vehicles available at this time, the day may not be all that far off when a consumer can ask about car loans for a vehicle that drives itself. Recently the San Jose Mercury News reported that GM belies driverless cars will be commonplace by 2025.


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