Google Self-Driving Cars: 10 Reasons They Go So Slowly - InformationWeek

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11/15/2015
11:05 AM
David Wagner
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Google Self-Driving Cars: 10 Reasons They Go So Slowly

A Google autonomous car was pulled over by police for driving below the speed limit. Why can't they go faster? We explore several theories.

Google, Tesla, Nissan: 6 Self-Driving Vehicles Cruising Our Way
Google, Tesla, Nissan: 6 Self-Driving Vehicles Cruising Our Way
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

A Google self-driving car was pulled over by police for driving below the speed limit. The vehicle was moving at 24 mph in a 35 mph zone. But really, that's slower than Usain Bolt. It might as well have been a windup toy.

Google posted that its autonomous vehicles move so slowly because the company wants "them to feel friendly and approachable, rather than zooming scarily through neighborhood streets." Fair enough, but this is an important lesson for Google to learn. Going too slow is as bad as going too fast.

Here's an example: Let's say you're in your car, listening to some awesome music, and you turn a corner and come come upon a Google car driving below the speed limit. It's easy to imagine being caught off guard and possibly rear-ending the vehicle or getting into an accident trying to avoid it.

So, why do Google's self-driving cars move so slowly? I have 10 theories that might explain the comapny's logic.

10 Reasons Google's Self-Driving Cars Move So Slowly

1. You can't do "Look ma, no hands!" if you are going too fast. No one will see you.

2. Google Images needs more pictures for the search term "middle finger." It expects to collect a whole bunch as angry drivers pass by its autonomous vehicles.

3. Google is planning to fund the project by suing all the people who rear-end its cars. Now it has to prove a robot car can get whiplash.

4. Google cars don't have robot dogs in them urging them to go faster so they can feel the wind on their snouts.

(Image: Adam Rifkin via Flickr)

(Image: Adam Rifkin via Flickr)

5. The vehicle is designed to give you that true Driving Miss Daisy experience.

6. If the autonous cars don't go slowly, Google Street View might not pick up all of these wonderful pictures.

7. Let's face it, autonomus cars are basically moving billboards for Google. The slower it goes, the greater the chance other drivers will see it.

[ It might also be to slow down and enjoy the tunes. Read Google Self-Driving Car: A Roadtrip Playlist. ]

8. The car is so busy recording your buying and search habits while you're sitting in it that it doesn't have the bandwidth to drive any faster than it already does.

9. You may have somewhere to get in a hurry, but the car doesn't.

10. Because it didn't take long for someone to post a video of a Tesla car on autopilot "trying to kill" its driver.

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David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
11/17/2015 | 4:38:09 PM
Google Car User Manual
"...You may have somewhere to get in a hurry, but the car doesn't."

 

This sounds like it was taken straight from the user manual.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
11/17/2015 | 4:35:58 PM
Google Cars and the Moving Billboard

Really enjoyed this piece Dave.    I had no idea Google cars drove so slowly, but then again I have only seen Google related cars driving through neighborhoods recording locations in my daily coming and going.

 

But I like # 7 - Google has no intention of them going too fast - because I agree they are just moving billboards.

jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
11/16/2015 | 10:03:22 AM
Re: Self-Driving Cars
>> Actually, Worcester, MA takes worst place, closely followed by Boston, in Allstate's recent list. Fort Collins, CO ranks best.

Oh yes, MA drivers are all crazy, especially when it comes to Rotaries! So, no argument here. 
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
11/16/2015 | 10:00:50 AM
Re: Self-Driving Cars
Actually, Worcester, MA takes worst place, closely followed by Boston, in Allstate's recent list. Fort Collins, CO ranks best.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
11/16/2015 | 10:00:50 AM
Re: Self-Driving Cars
Actually, Worcester, MA takes worst place, closely followed by Boston, in Allstate's recent list. Fort Collins, CO ranks best.
jastroff
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jastroff,
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11/16/2015 | 9:54:52 AM
Re: Self-Driving Cars
ah ha! it might be interesting to put self-driving cars in places ranked as "worst drivers" or "most agressive" and see how it responds

for me, the worst are frm New Jersey (sorry), and agressive are from Connecticut, but I'm sure it's an open debate
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
11/16/2015 | 9:50:49 AM
Re: Self-Driving Cars
@jastroff ineresting, there really are cultural differences --even between states. I remember seeing some ranking of most aggressive drivers.
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
11/16/2015 | 9:43:00 AM
Re: Self-Driving Cars
>> Google has programmed its cars to be rather more cautious than the average driver, 

Interesting. Maybe it would do better in London traffic, which is the worst I've seen, but they are very polite
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
11/16/2015 | 8:43:30 AM
Re: Self-Driving Cars
Google has programmed its cars to be rather more cautious than the average driver, which does lead to clashes of style. Supposedly it's something the company is working on, particularly with respect to the problem of "after you" at intersections. 
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
11/15/2015 | 4:06:01 PM
Self-Driving Cars
I know there are benefits. I know there are downsides.

What I'd most like to see is a self-driving car in New York City traffic at rush hour. Let's say, from City Hall to Columbia University -- that's about 150 blocks and very bad traffic. I'd just like to see what it does and how it does it.
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