Google founder de­fends self-driv­ing ac­ci­dent records


Google co- founder Sergey Brin sees lit­tle rea­son to re­lease the ac­ci­dent re­ports in­volv­ing the In­ter­net com­pany’s self- driv­ing cars be­cause he be­lieves there’s noth­ing new in doc­u­ments that have been with­held so far to pro­tect the pri­vacy of other mo­torists.

Brin, who over­sees Google’s fleet of self- driv­ing cars, out­lined his ra­tio­nale Wed­nes­day dur­ing a some­times- testy ex­change with a long- time critic at the com­pany’s an­nual share­hold­ers meet­ing in Moun­tain View, Cal­i­for­nia.

As part of his ef­fort to show Google has noth­ing to hide, Brin dis­closed that one of the com­pany’s self- driv­ing cars had been rear- ended at a traf­fic sig­nal dur­ing the past week. With that col­li­sion, Google’s self- driv­ing cars have now been in­volved in 12 ac­ci­dents while cov­er­ing more than 1.7 mil­lion miles dur­ing the past six years, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany.

The self- driv­ing cars have never been at fault, ac­cord­ing to Google, though a com­pany em­ployee was in con­trol at the time of one crash.

“We don’t claim that the cars are go­ing to be per­fect,” Brin said. “Our goal is to beat hu­man driv­ers.”

Google is plan­ning to begin testing the lat­est ver­sion of its self- driv­ing car around the streets of Moun­tain View and other nearby public roads this sum­mer.

About 25 of the pod- like, twoseat ve­hi­cles ini­tially will be cruis­ing around at speeds top­ping out at 25 miles per hour.

Con­sumer Watch­dog, a group that has been lam­bast­ing Google for years, is de­mand­ing that the com­pany re­lease the self- driv­ing cars’ ac­ci­dent re­ports filed with the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Mo- tor Ve­hi­cles to give the public a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the risks posed by the ve­hi­cles. The As­so­ci­ated Press also has re­quested the records from Google and the DMV.

Both Google and the DMV have cited pri­vacy con­cerns for keep­ing the re­ports un­der wraps.

Even if the ac­ci­dent records were re­leased with the names of the driv­ers censored, Brin said the doc­u­ments wouldn’t dis­close any­thing dif­fer­ent from a sum­mary that the com­pany posted on­line three weeks ago. In­clud­ing the most re­cent ac­ci­dent, Google says its self- driv­ing cars have been rear- ended eight times, side- swiped twice and hit by an­other ve­hi­cle rolling through a stop sign.

“I sup­pose we could give more de­tail and we are open to that, but you are not go­ing to learn any­more,” Brin told John Simp­son, Con­sumer Watch­dog’s pri- vacy project direc­tor.

The driver­less cars are among sev­eral am­bi­tious projects that Google has been fund­ing out­side its pri­mary busi­ness of In­ter­net search and ad­ver­tis­ing. The list of far- flung ini­tia­tives in­clude a con­tact lens that mon­i­tors glu­cose lev­els in di­a­bet­ics and In­ter­net- beam­ing bal­loons hov­er­ing over re­mote ar­eas of the world with lit­tle or no on­line ac­cess.

Google CEO Larry Page, the com­pany’s other co- founder, de­scribes the projects as “moon­shots” that he hopes will make the world a bet­ter place. He as­sured Google share­hold­ers Wed­nes­day that “ev­ery­thing is get­ting bet­ter, in gen­eral, by quite a bit,” thanks to tech­nol­ogy.

“I think we should be op­ti­mists and be ex­cited by all the things we are build­ing and con­tribut­ing to the world,” Page said.

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