Google Would Rather the DMV Not Know About its Autonomous Cars’ Testing Mishaps

Need additional reasons to make you even less sure about the prospect of self-driving vehicles?

Well, how about Google’s desire to withhold information from both the public and governing bodies, because it holds the view that “an overly broad reporting requirement will create a significant burden on manufacturers. But it will also create a significant burden on DMV… and will pose a particular challenge since DMV does not have the existing engineering expertise to interpret the data”?

The quoted words are those of Ron Medford, director of safety for Google’s self-driving car program whose view it is that rules governing the current phase of self-driver testing “should be amended to limit required reporting to accidents involving vehicles operated in autonomous mode.”

What he’s basically saying, according to Quartz, is that Google would like not to share information about the instances where the autonomous system hands back control to the driver – these situations are known as “disengagements.”

This can happen for any number of reasons, and while Google does insist that most of the times it just occurs in harmless situations, we can’t really completely trust their judgment since the consensus within the company seems to be that “public disclosure of this information could cause great financial harm to Google” (Medford’s words).

Apparently, all the other companies involved in self-driving car development on US soil (GM, Chrysler, VW and Mercedes) agreed to share all data with the DMV, including the reports of when the transition in control between human and robot driver occurs, or vice versa.

Even so, we’ll give Google the benefit of the doubt for now, and actually buy into their story that disengagements exclusively happened in harmless situations. Testing is set to continue and the internet giant will be forced by the current legislation to be more transparent than it would have wanted. That’s good and hopefully will benefit the consumer in the end, though we cannot place their current practices anywhere near the ethical side of the business scales…

Besides, why are they fighting this if it’s as harmless as they say it is? They only had a single incident occur in 700,000 miles (1,100,000 km) of testing and that one happened while the human driver was in full control.