New U.S. motoring laws could alter the design of Google’s driverless car

Leading UK law firm, Accident Advice Helpline comment on the new laws that all drivers must be able to take ‘immediate physical control’ of a vehicle

The California department of motor vehicles have introduced a new road safety rule which could completely alter the design of Google’s current driverless cars. The new rules state that all vehicles on Californian roads have to have a steering wheel and brake pedal; two things Google’s fleet of driverless cars do not currently have.

They state that drivers need to be able to take ‘immediate physical control’ of the car if needed. Leading UK law firm Accident Advice Helpline commented that:

“Google driverless cars claim to not having been involved in any crashes; but anything that can be done to further decrease the chances is a welcome thing.”

Rather than testing the driverless cars on private roads or merely going to another state, Google has said that they will comply with the ruling and install a “small, temporary steering wheel and pedal system” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Google spokeswoman Courtney Hohne said that,

“With these additions, our safety drivers can test the self-driving features, while having the ability to take control of the vehicle if necessary” and Accident Advice Helpline said “Having both options gives people the best of both worlds to prevent issues on roads where there are so many potential dangers”.

California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has announced new rules will come into effect in mid-September which doesn’t give Google long. Currently the company’s prototype cars had both high tech pre-programmed 3D maps alongside in-built sensors which are designed to detect objects up to two football-field lengths away in all directions.

The cars originally had a speed cap of 25 miles per hour but it has been revealed that cars have now been programmed to allow them to exceed speed limits by up to ten miles an hour. Dmitri Dolgov who is the lead software engineer on the Google driverless cars project said research has shown that it is safer to speed up to match other cars speeds on a road than strictly keeping to a speed limit and becoming an obstruction.

People have queried who would be liable for paying a speeding fine if a driverless car was involved: the owner, the passenger in the car or Google for writing the software. If the passenger in the car can’t control the speed of the vehicle then surely it should be Google; although no answers have officially been given.

Google believes that driverless cars could eventually cut the number of road deaths in half. Chris Urmson who leads the self-driving car team said “Everything is designed to minimise injury in the event of an accident” including a soft foam bonnet which would minimise impact in the unlikely event of a collision and a windscreen made of flexible thick plastic which bends to the touch. Chris went on to say ‘Nothing can ever be 100 per cent accident-proof but we truly believe this vehicle can and will save lives”.

A spokesperson for Accident Advice Helpline said that

“Anything that can be done to bring down the number of road deaths is a good thing and we will embrace the change.”

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