One of the self-driving cars being tested by Google was pulled over by a police officer for driving too slow, 25 mph in a 35 mph zone. I had not been aware that driving below the speed limit was a primary offense but apparently it is if you are causing a traffic backup behind you. Or maybe not, because the news report is a bit confused about whether it is an offense or not.
“As the officer approached the slow moving car he realized it was a Google Autonomous Vehicle,” a police department post said.
Which is to say that no one was driving the darn thing.
There was, however, a passenger. So the officer asked the passenger how the car was choosing speeds along certain roadways.
He also took the opportunity to inform the passenger about 22400(a) of the California Vehicle Code, which related to impeding traffic — a section of the law the self-driving car may have been unfamiliar with.
In a Google Plus post, the Google Self-Driving Car Project pled guilty to slow driving.
“We’ve capped the speed of our prototype vehicles at 25 mph for safety reasons,” the post said. “We want them to feel friendly and approachable, rather than zooming scarily through neighborhood streets.”
In the end, the officer determined the car had broken no law. No harm, no foul.
And no ticket was issued — not because there was no driver to whom to issue it but because the car had committed no violation.
What interested me was that the self-driving car stopped at all. Does the software have the ability to recognize that police are flagging you down? Or did the passenger in the car activate the stop? I am guessing that it must be the former.
Which raises the question: Are these cars being designed to drive without any humans inside or must they always have someone in case the automatic system needs to be over-ridden in an emergency?