While Google’s autonomous vehicles have shared the road with the rest of us for a while now it made news this week when the search engine announced it would be amending driverless car design to do away with the steering wheel and pedals, including the brake. The new fleet will only travel up to 25 mph thus lowering the number of safety standards Google would have to meet, but the cars will still be allowed to drive in regular traffic.
While anything Google does tends to make news it’s interesting that this particular item caused the stir it did; A self-driving vehicle equipped with steering wheel and pedals is still a self-driving vehicle. Has a human riding in one of Google’s autonomous cars ever needed to step in and take control? I don’t thinks so… seems that tidbit might have made news, too. But there’s something about knowing one could wrest control of the vehicle if necessary that made the autonomous concept a little easier to accept. There was comfort in the illusion of control. Now that Google’s doing away with that option the idea of riding in a car under its own power is a little scarier, the possibility of Hal-on-wheels a tad more real. Conversely, should problems arise we could always react the way we do with the other computer-operated objects in our life and simply reboot, turn the car off… unless, of course, Google wants control of that function, too.