Governments aren't particularly adept at grasping new technology, and Google made that point crystal clear at a meeting this week in California where the safety and regulation of self-driving cars were debated.
Google joined the DMV and about 100 representatives from car manufacturers and safety groups, as well as lobbyists and the public, in the first of two workshops to discuss the state's process of assessing the safety of autonomous cars. Specifically, they're trying to figure out how the DMV would test self-driving vehicles for certification in the state – a deadline the DMV already blew earlier this year – and something that Bryan Salesky, Google's program manager for self-driving cars, thinks is beyond the state's abilities.
"The DMV is not in the best position to evaluate the safety of any one of these products," Salesky said at the hearing.
Salesky was referring to the state's proposals for testing, which could involve the DMV either establishing its own procedures – a lengthy, expensive process – or hiring an outside firm, something which Salesky dubbed "naive." The alternative is leaving it up to vehicle manufacturers to test, which riled up safety advocates.
"Safety is not [the manufacturer's] leading concern," said Rosemary Shahan, the president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety. "I think that's pretty obvious."
Right, because the best thing for a nascent industry is to cause countless crashes and thousands of deaths, killing off the adoption of autonomous vehicles before it even starts. Google's Salesky points that out.
"Safety is built into the product from day one," Salesky said. "It's something that is organic to what we do."