Google has been developing the world’s first driverless car, though their efforts have been restrained by being forced to add a steering wheel and pedals. Originally, the concept of the car was to be able to drive itself, leaving the person in control of nothing, but a single button to begin their route. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in California has ruled that drivers must have the ability to take control of the vehicle in case the software malfunctions, there is an accident, or an emergency situation presents itself.
Dmitri Dolgov, the lead software engineer of this project, admitted that their technology was not perfect, and the cars had the habit of sometimes going over the speed limit. He explained this by stating the driverless cars had the ability to go 10 mph over the speed limit, as opposed to sticking to it to keep up with traffic. Dolgov’s reasoning behind the cars’ ability to exceed the speed limit was to keep up with the traffic, when it is speeding and avoid road rage or cause obstructions in the road.
Days after Dolgov’s statement, the DMV in the state of California ruled that drivers must be able to take control over their vehicle, just in case an emergency or accident occurs. As a result of this ruling, Google will be forced to add manual controls to their fleet of driverless cars. Google must now achieve this addition before the cars can be taken out onto public highways and roads.
The new rules for Google’s driverless cars take effect on September 16, and any driverless car not adapted for the new guidelines will be illegal in the state of California after that date. Before this driverless car was developed, Google already had a design featuring existing cars that had hardware added to it, so that driving autonomously could be achieved. Their driverless cars were the next step of their innovative technology and were introduced in the earlier months of 2014.
Google can, however, still test their driverless cars in another state or on private roads, without adding their manual controls. Google has chosen to comply with the new rules by installing a temporary and small pedal system and steering wheel. The Wall Street Journal has said the new temporary template will conceptually water-down the design, which was more spacious for passengers, even though the car is compact, because there were no pedals or steering column.
Google is now in the process of creating 100 prototypes of the autonomous cars and will limit the speed to 25 mph. They will also be adding temporary controls to these prototypes. Next month, Google will start tests using members of the general public to drive on private roads. They plan to test on public roads for two years.
Bernard Soriano, the official in California who had been involved with drafting the new rules, stated that Google may be allowed to test their cars without wheels and pedals. Soriano thinks they may be relaxing the rules a bit by that time, depending on the development of the tests.
Although Google has been forced to add a steering wheel and pedals to their self-driving cars, they do not seemed to be worried. A representative of the company stated that having the wheel and pedals will still allow safety drivers to have the ability to test the features that control the self-driving, in addition to being able to take control of the car, in case of an emergency situation. Over the next two years, Google will have to wait and see if the rules will be relaxed before the design can be finalized.
By Monica de Lartigue