Police in the city of Mountain View, California recently pulled over a car that was driving too slowly on the road and causing traffic to back up behind it. Nothing unusual about the stop, other than the fact that it was one of the Google self-driving car prototypes.
The car was pulled over for going 24 miles per hour in a 35 miles per hour zone. According to a statement from the police, officers questioned the operators about why the car was moving so slowly and talked to them about the dangers of impeding traffic. There are usually two operators in the Google cars capable of taking over if needed, which was the case this time. The operators were allowed to go on their way, and the officers told them that if they noticed that there was a traffic backup behind them, to pull over and let the traffic go by.
The Google self-driving car prototypes are allowed to operate on streets that have a speed limit of 35 m.p.h. or slower, under the California Vehicle Code. Google, responding to the episode, said its vehicles have their speeds capped at 25 m.p.h. for safety reasons. The Google self-driving car project has logged more than 1.2 million miles since the project started. The cops almost had the honor of handing out the first traffic ticket for a self-driving car, but didn’t since there was technically no driver to cite.
One of the biggest problems with the Google self-driving car program is programming the vehicles to behave perfectly in reaction to a world where humans don’t behave perfectly. The cars are already programmed to obey the letter of the law. Unfortunately, to date the cars have been in 16 crashes where a human driver in another vehicle was at fault. Most of those accidents were reported as fender benders.