A new report has come out that claims that Google changed its plans for autonomous autos shortly after testing features that would have required the driver to take over in a dangerous situation. The reason for changing its plans was because reliance on autopilot left users distracted and unprepared to maneuver in a tricky situation. Originally plans had been to have a system that would require drivers to take over if a tone sounded.
Those plans were changed when testing with Google employees showed that the users in the driver’s seat were napping, putting on makeup, and playing with phones while the vehicles traveled at up to 56 mph. The tech that required drivers to take over in certain situations was originally planned to bring autonomous cars to market faster according to John Krafcik, head of Waymo, which started at Google in 2009.
Krafcik said that what Waymo found during that testing “was pretty scary” and that people in an autonomous car lose contextual awareness making it hard for them to take over if needed. The company found that a system that asks drivers to take over in certain situations was unsafe after seeing the videos and plans were changed.
After those videos were seen, the company opted to work on technology that requires no human intervention. Waymo says that its technology takes care of all the driving in all situations. Waymo’s test vehicles have two human controls, one is for starting the ride and the other is to ask the vehicle to pull over.
Right now, Waymo is running a pilot program in Phoenix, Arizona and hasn’t disclosed how many passengers it carts around each day. That program is said to be close to expanding.