California recently proposed that self driving cars should have someone with a license behind the wheel, and Google’s angry at the idea. There are two ways to look at this story, though.
See, the benefit of self-driving cars is that they’re going to skirt us from place to place. We can sit back, play a video game, watch a movie, end up 5 hours away. At least that’s the utopia I’m picturing. For that, it seems like a license wouldn’t be necessary, since you’re not paying attention anyway.
Google sees an even larger benefit than Netflixing at 60mph: the company sees a huge benefit for folks who can’t drive or who don’t have licenses. Maybe that have health conditions that prevent them from getting behind the wheel. Maybe they’re blind. California’s proposal does nothing to help those people, it seems.
“In a perplexing move this week, however, California seemed to shrink back from its leadership: the CA DMV proposed a draft rule that would require a self-driving car to have a licensed driver at all times, “Google’s Chris Urmson wrote in a blog post on Thursday. “This maintains the same old status quo and falls short on allowing this technology to reach its full potential, while excluding those who need to get around but cannot drive. While we’re disappointed by this, we will continue to work with the DMV as they seek feedback in the coming months, in the hope that we can recapture the original spirit of the bill.”
California’s proposal does make some sense, though, at least we start to get our feet wet. A licensed driver and a required steering wheel would allow the driver to take over if the car, for some reason, went bonkers or failed.
Google doesn’t think its cars are going to fail, though. So therein lies the conundrum.