Should Google Hide Accident Reports?

Google should release the reports of accidents involving its driverless cars that have been filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles and to commit to making public all future driverless car accident reports.

Consumer Watchdog learned that there had been accidents involving Google’s robot cars when the nonprofit nonpartisan public interest group filed a Public Records Act request with the California Department of Motor Vehicles seeking communications between Google and the department. However, the DMV treats driverless car accident reports confidentially and would not release them.

It is important that the public know what happened. Google is testing driverless vehicles on public highways, quite possibly putting other drivers at risk.

Unbelievably, Google is planning to offer its robot cars without a steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator so there would be no way for a person to take control in an emergency. That plan underscores the need for the public to know the full details of all accidents.

It wants to eliminate the most basic safeguard, a licensed driver able to take control, in its proposed driverless vehicles. This aim makes it even more important for the public to understand any accidents that occur involving Google's vehicles during the testing phase.

In a letter to Google executives, Consumer Watchdog wrote, "Rather than hide behind the cloak of DMV confidentiality, Google should disclose the accident report and the full details of the incident.  We also call on you to commit to making all future accident reports public."

The letter continued, "Google has engaged in a highly visible public relations campaign extolling the supposed virtues of driverless cars.  It is incumbent upon you to be candid about the cars’ failings and shortcomings as well.  Your stated mission is ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.’   Sadly, in practice, you’ve modified this to be ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible – except when it is about Google.’ Please treat yourselves as you would treat everyone else.  Release DMV driverless car accident reports and details of your driverless car accidents. Make the autonomous technology disengagement reports public as well."

Read Consumer Watchdog’s letter to Google CEO Larry Page and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt here:

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