Google researches say the company's driverless cars need to be more assertive.
When they are faced with unfamiliar or dangerous situations, the cars generally shut down. When this happens, the human driver takes control of the vehicle. The cars' overall tentative nature has some rather unintended side effects. For example, the cars often tailgate on freeways to prevent other motorists from cutting in front of them. And, the cars approach three- and four-way intersections very hesitantly, in case someone tries to beat them across the street.
It's estimated that, by 2035, about 75 percent of new cars sold will be driverless, at least to some extent. Which while cool, does not sit well too many of us who are drivers and enjoy controlling a well-tuned motor vehicle instead of being a passenger.
So far, the driverless cars have not been involved in an accident after over 700,000 miles of tests. There have been crashes, but only when the human drivers took control of the vehicle. Google's cars are designed for safety, and that means that the cars are designed to speed on sections of roadway like Interstate 5 in Kern County.
The cars can travel at up to 10 MPH over the speed limit. Specifically, when the surrounding cars are speeding, the driverless vehicles will accelerate to catch up. The engineers believe it is safer to keep pace with traffic as long as it is moving at a reasonable speed, as opposed to obstructing traffic by strictly adhering to the posted speed limit.
Legislators and law enforcement organizations may do well to take a clue from these driverless cars, and start enforcing the slowpoke laws as aggressively as they enforce speeding laws. That may be the best way to make highways in the Central Valley safer.