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Google’s Driverless Cars Might Get A Speeding Ticket

Why is the company programming them to break the law?

Michael Cruickshank
Google’s Driverless Cars Might Get A Speeding Ticket© 2018 Google

Driverless cars will revolutionize transportation as we know it, and there is no company more advanced along the path to actually building these vehicles than Google. The company has recently been testing a beetle-like vehicle which it hopes will iron out many of the initial problems with the this new technology. While the vehicles are designed to be soft, and foam-fronted in order to reduce damage from potential crashes, it might surprise you to know that Google’s driverless cars are also being programmed to speed.

In an interview with Reuters, the lead software engineer behind the Google driverless car project, Dmitri Dolgov explained that Google’s cars would be specifically programmed to exceed the speed limit, under certain circumstances. In high traffic environments, and when other cars travelling around the driverless car are exceeding the speed limit, its controlling computer will allow it to drive up to 16 km/h above the speed limit.

Strangely enough, this does actually fit back into the company’s emphasis on safety. Google’s research has suggested that in these kind of situations where other motorists are traveling faster than the speed limit, it is actually dangerous to be driving slowly. For this reason the cars have been programmed to speed up in order to match the speed of the cars around them.

Image: © 2014 Google

Lawmakers will need to decide who is liable for punishment if a driverless car is caught breaking a road rule.

It will be interesting to see how Google, and other companies developing driverless cars will work within and around existing road laws in order to make their vehicles more efficient and safe. Before these cars are rolled out for the public, regulators and lawmakers will need to decide who is liable for punishment if a driverless car is caught breaking a critical road rule.

While it might seem simple enough to punish the owner of the car for this rule breach, the owner actually would have very little influence over how the car operates. An alternative model for legislation could include punishing the manufacturer (or programmer) for road-based crimes, as they are the ones who actually decide how the car is operated. Despite this seeming the most logical, it is also fraught with its own set of problems. No matter what happens, your future driverless car is sure to cause plenty of legal confusion...

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