GOOGLE'S AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES are somewhat boy racers, according to their developers.
Dmitri Dolgov, lead engineer of Google's driverless car project, has confirmed that the vehicles are programmed to overshoot the speed limit by up to 10 miles per hour in certain circumstances.
Although the driverless car stays within the speed limit "mostly", it has been programmed to judge whether staying under the speed limit might be more dangerous than slightly exceeding it.
Dolgov's decision follows research that shows that sticking to the speed limit when surrounded by drivers exceeding it can be dangerous and that keeping up with the traffic flow is the safest course of action.
Because driverless cars don't have the human intuition that motorists sometimes are required to call on, the 10mph buffer acts to compensate.
"Thousands and thousands of people are killed in car accidents every year," Dolgov told Reuters, "This could change that."
The announcement might seem like a tiny detail in the evolution of the Google X project, but driverless cars could be on the roads within a decade, and have led to thorny legal and ethical issues. If you are using an autonomous car are you legally liable under the terms of your insurance? How can you be sure that your car, in its efforts to protect the occupants, won't take out surrounding pedestrians if it has to take evasive action?
And perhaps most important of all, if Cecilia Abadie, who was ticketed for wearing Google Glass while driving, had been the lead passenger in a Google driverless car instead, would she have got a ticket then?
There are still a lot of things yet to consider before driverless cars become common on the roads. µ
Sign up for INQbot – a weekly roundup of the best from the INQ