Google is trying to fast-track autonomous cars to the market, but a California-based consumer group that has fought for more disclosure and transparency in autonomous vehicle development, wants Google to answer 10 questions about safety.
Consumer Watchdog listed its questions in a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association ahead of a hearing about autonomous vehicles on Friday.
“Noting Google’s consistent refusal to disclose information about its driverless cars’ crashes, how its software algorithms will make life and death decisions, its vulnerability to hackers and collection of personal data, the non-profit advocacy group urged the Department of Transportation and NHTSA to require Google to answer ten questions about the safety of its robot car program within thirty days,” the group says.
1. We understand the self-driving car cannot currently handle many common occurrences on the road, including heavy rain or snow, hand signals from a traffic cop, or gestures to communicate from other drivers. Will Google publish a complete list of real-life situations the cars cannot yet understand, and how you intend to deal with them?
2. What does Google envision happening if the computer “driver” suddenly goes offline with a passenger in the car, if the car has no steering wheel or pedals and the passenger cannot steer or stop the vehicle?
3. Your programmers will literally make life and death decisions as they write the vehicles’ algorithms. Will Google agree to publish its software algorithms, including how the company’s “artificial car intelligence” will be programmed to decide what happens in the event of a potential collision? For instance, will your robot car prioritize the safety of the occupants of the vehicle or pedestrians it encounters?
4. Will Google publish all video from the car and technical data such as radar and lidar reports associated with accidents or other anomalous situations? If not, why not?
5. Will Google publish all data in its possession that discusses, or make projections concerning, the safety of driverless vehicles?
6. Do you expect one of your robot cars to be involved in a fatal crash? If your robot car causes the crash, how would you be held accountable?
7. How will Google prove that self-driving cars are safer than today’s vehicles?
8. Will Google agree not to store, market, sell, or transfer the data gathered by the self-driving car, or utilize it for any purpose other than navigating the vehicle?
9. NHTSA’s performance standards are actually designed to promote new life-saving technology. Why is Google trying to circumvent them? Will Google provide all data in its possession concerning the length of time required to comply with the current NHTSA safety process?
10. Does Google have the technology to prevent malicious hackers from seizing control of a driverless vehicle or any of its systems?