In documents obtained by Telegraph which made available under the Freedom of Information Act showed that Google has held five face-to-face meetings with Department for Transport (DfT) in the last two years to talk about autonomous cars. Some part of the documents as been redacted to protect commercial interest.
Google is currently testing its autonomous cars on California roads with a total of 1m miles travelled on public roads. The company sees United Kingdom (UK) as a leader in developing laws for driverless cars.
Google’s autonomous cars are equipped with lidar sensors which able to differentiate between objects and pedestrians by using laser technology. The company is planning to launch them in 2020. Autonomous cars are believed to be able to make car accidents a thing in the past, allow drivers and their passengers to do more meaningful activity such as having meetings while commuting or parents to play with their children during travelling as well as minimize traffic jams.
UK government reported to be supporting of the technology. They have invested millions to driverless car research and promised to change the law to cater for the technology to grow in the country.
In one of the meetings, Sarah Hunter, the head of policy for Google X, said that the company was very positive about the non-regulatory approach being taken in the UK which placed the UK in a good position and could be seen as an example of best practice. Google X is Google’s experimental division.
According to the minutes, UK DfT’s head of technology, Michael Hurwitz has emphasized their desire to work with Google to ensure the UK stayed ahead.
The meetings attended by some of Google’s leading figures such as Chris Urmson, the head of the unit and Jennifer Haroon, the head of business of the company’s self driving cars project as well as officials from various government departments including the Treasury and UK Trade & Investment.
Insurance model is the particular question that Google interested in. As driverless car is controlled by a system and not human driver, experts have suggested that automakers should be held responsible in case there is an accident. Google is referred to the Bank of England by DfT in regards of this. Bank of England currently in the process of modelling the insurance sector of autonomous car industry and wanted to speak to Google. Driverless cars are predicted to change the traditional behaviour of insurance industry. Premiums are expected to be lower and liability shifted to automakers.
The five meetings were held in London and California between January 2014 and July 2015.