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Under Pressure, Google May Slow Rollout of Driverless Car Technology

Publication Date: 
July 18, 2013
The Wall Street Journal - CIO Journal
Steve Rosenbush

Bryant Walker Smith, lecturer in law and fellow at the Center for Internet and Society, spoke to Steve Rosenbush The Wall Street Journal - CIO Journal on driverless car technology and what will determine the future of self-driving vehicles.

Google Inc. , under pressure to slow down development of driverless cars, may crimp the capabilities of the first auto products that it brings to market, people close to the company say. That may mean that cars using Google’s software may not drive faster than 25 miles per hour and may feature a foam front end to limit the extent of damage caused in the event of a collision.

The future of the car products — which are not planned to begin entering the market until 2017, has been a topic of heated debate inside the company, say people familiar with the deliberations. One camp favors debuting the "Google Car" with its full capabilities. Others favor taking a more gradual approach, saying it will have to be introduced slowly and with minimal shock to consumers, policymakers, insurers and industry alike. While proponents argue the new technology will provide important societal benefits such as reduced accidents, improved energy efficiency and productivity gains, there are still policy and legal hurdles to be overcome.


One legal scholar said that future of self-driving vehicles ultimately would be determined by the technology. "I am convinced that when the technology is ready, the law and policy will make room," Bryant Walker Smith, a Stanford Law School fellow who organized the conference, said. "There will be a point when people say this is safe by some reasonable standard."