Consumer Watchdog questions safety of Google's self-driving cars

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- A Santa Monica-based nonprofit organization is blasting Google's self-driving cars, calling into question their safety and reliability.

Consumer Watchdog released a video this week following the technology company's report that the cars had been involved in a total of 11 accidents since the program began six years ago.

"Its driverless car won't have a steering wheel, won't have a brake pedal, won't have an accelerator pedal. You'll be completely at the mercy of the robot driver," said John Simpson, privacy project director of Consumer Watchdog.

In the video, the organization highlighted what they say are potential hazards for the cars, including severe weather that can interfere with their sensors, hand signals that they don't see and potholes they may not detect.

The organization also said the self-driving cars will monitor personal data of the car's owner, which they fear will interfere with the individual's privacy and be used for advertising purposes.

In a statement, Google reported that all of the accidents were minor and involved light damage and no injuries. According to Google, in every circumstance, the self-driving car was not the cause of the accident.

With more than 20 self-driving cars in the testing program moving through everyday traffic, the company said the amount of accidents shouldn't be surprising. Consumer Watchdog, however, questioned those claims.

"Californians don't know because Google will not release those results so we need full disclosure," said Carmen Balber, executive director of the organization.

Although Google is required by law to report every accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles, the organization said the company has not been transparent and that their responses have created more questions than answers.

"We put in the request to see the records and were essentially told, 'well the records exist but those accident reports are confidential,'" Simpson said.

The group said they want Google to make records regarding accidents public. They also want government officials to require all self-driving cars in the future to have some way for a human to take control.
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