Google posted a video last Thursday that featured Steve Mahan taking a trip to Taco Bell. But this wasn’t your standard midnight ‘I’m so hungry and I only have 3 bucks’ trip to Taco Bell, because Steve Mahan is 95% Blind.
Check the Video Out Here:
Steve’s errands turned into a test drive for Google self driving vehicle, stopping to pick-up Steve’s Dry cleaning as well as tasty tacos. As mentioned in this article on Wired.com; While Google did this test with the Morgan Hill Police Department, there is still some issues with the legality of having a blind unlicensed driver on open road.
The California Highway Patrol released this statment after learning of Google’s test drive:
In order to legally drive a vehicle in California; it must be done so by an appropriately licensed driver. Whether the input from a driver into the driving of a vehicle is done manually or electronically through entered commands, the driver is still responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle and is also required to abide by all existing rules of the road. Additionally, the vehicle must comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards as well as all requirements of the California Vehicle Code. If the driver was not appropriately licensed, he could be stopped and subject to citation.
Google was of course not pleased with this response from the California Highway Patrol, which led them to realese this statement:
A licensed driver with the ability to control the vehicle ran the test from the passenger seat,” the Google spokesman said. Law enforcement officers issued a permit and provided a police escort because they were satisfied with the legality of our test.
I think that this test is much like driving in a drivers Education Vehicle. While all the radars and lasers are in control of the vehicle, the passenger (or in this test case the Google Project expert) has the ability to manually over ride and take over driving the vehicle. While I can see that the issues of legality and safety are important, I think that if we truly want autonomous vehicles on the road some day in the future we are going to have to let them be tested on the open road.
Lavrinc, D. (2012, March 29). Google’s autonomous Prius drives blind man to Taco Bell. Retrieved April 3, 2012, from Wired website: http://www.wired.com/autopia/2012/03/googles-autonomous-prius-drives-blind-man-to-taco-bell/