Google's Autonomous Car Is Programmed to Speed Because It's Safer

Illustration for article titled Google's Autonomous Car Is Programmed to Speed Because It's Safer

Self-driving cars are coming, some people are freaked out about them. Here's something that might not put those people at ease: According to a Google engineer, the cars are designed to exceed the speed limit. Don't worry though! There's actually a good reason for it.


Dmitri Dolgov, the lead software engineer on the project, says that the car is programmed to go about 10 mph over the speed limit. While no one's going to confuse the Google car with a drag-racing hot rod, it is interesting that the company would deliberately design the car to break the law. The reason is safety: When cars all around the Google car are speeding, going slower than those cars would actually make driving conditions more dangerous.

While it makes sense, it also brings up an interesting issue around how exactly autonomous cars will share the road with non-autonomous cars. The biggest safety issue that Google's cars will encounter are human drivers, who will still be making the same stupid mistakes even if Google's navigation is flawless. And once all the cars on the road are autonomous—which could happen, eventually—the Google car won't need to speed anymore. Because every car will be programmed to go the "speed limit," right? [Reuters via BBC News]


Once all cars on the road are autonomous, there would be little reason to keep the speed limit at their current standards and will most likely be raised quite a bit; those limits are set as they are because (a) it is assumed the people, on average, will be driving slightly faster than posted, and (more importantly) (b) it is assumed that the cars are being driven by humans, who have a tendency to make stupid driving decisions or being careless or distracted or all three of them at once.