The "auto" in Google's autonomous car program may be forced to be a little downgraded because of a ruling by California's Department of Motor Vehicles, which requires drivers to able to take "immediate physical control" of the vehicle if necessary.
Google's driverless cars will be now required to have steering wheels, accelerator and brake pedals, according to Bernard Soriano, top official of rule-making in the state. Daresay that's a good thing for old school folk following the developments of the driverless car program. Because at the end of the day, don't know how trusting one can be of a car that steers, slows and speeds for you, even if it's travelling only up to 40 km/h.
So now Google will fit a temporary driver control system which includes a steering wheel and drive pedals, for their test drivers to use if necessary during evaluation runs of the cars. But there are some tough hurdles ahead for the driverless car program.
For widespread application of this technology, the company will have to obtain public acceptance of unmanned cars, and importantly, handle liability issues in the case of accidents. Without a driver, analysing who was at fault becomes complicated and potentially opens up possible targets for lawsuits.
California state has acted on the potential liability complications by requiring companies testing driverless cars to have USD 5 million (INR 30 crore approx) in insurance or self-insurance a bond for the same amount.
But that's something that's worrying smaller cogs in the driverless wheel.
Companies like Velodyne Inc. that supply laser technology for Google cars are concerned about the 5-million-dollar ticket to test, since factors like insuring against the liability risks would raise the prices of their products drastically.
With regards to the future, Google's autonomous cars will be allowed to test without manual controls-the state is in the process of drafting out rules for those runs.
So will self-driving vehicles ever make it through the chaos of Indian traffic? One day they probably will, and that's a tad scary. But for now, we still prefer cars that we can control with our hands and feet, thank you very much...
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