Google says driverless cars are safer when they speed

(Courtesy of Google)
(Courtesy of Google)

It’s not exactly the car from Knight Rider, but Google says its driverless vehicle can go fast when it needs to.

When a Reuters reporter recently got a ride in a Google self-driving car in Mountain View, Calif., he uncovered a bit of a paradox: Even though improved safety is one of the main benefits of the robotic vehicle, it’s actually programmed to be able to speed.

“Google’s engineers have determined that speeding actually is safer than going the speed limit in some circumstances,” the reporter, Paul Ingrassia, wrote after the ride in the car with Google engineer Dmitri Dolgov. From the story:

Google’s driverless car is programmed to stay within the speed limit, mostly. Research shows that sticking to the speed limit when other cars are going much faster actually can be dangerous, Dolgov says, so its autonomous car can go up to 10 mph (16 kph) above the speed limit when traffic conditions warrant.

So, the driverless car will fit right in once it arrives in Boston down the line.

Sort of. Jack Newsham recently reported for the Globe that “it could be a while before the vehicle ventures onto the treacherous streets of Boston,” due to the differences in driving conditions between here and Silicon Valley. From that article:

…the cars need to be tested under a number of different and difficult driving conditions, so that Google’s technology can prove itself in the absence of highly precise maps, like the kind it uses to get around Mountain View, Calif., and common driver aids like lane markers, road signs, and uniform intersections.

Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
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