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Google's self-driving unit to stop shaming humans

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 1/20/2017 Marco della Cava
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SAN FRANCISCO — Waymo, Google's newly renamed self-driving car division, has decided to stop shaming humans.

Since 2015, Google's autonomous car team has been blogging monthly about both the progress of the project as well as the nature of the accidents suffered by its fleet of Lexus hybrid SUVs and small two-person prototypes.

In every instance but one, fewer than a dozen all told, human drivers were at fault. Typically, the accidents involved either distracted or anxious humans rear-ending the Google cars at a stop light at walking speeds. 

But while those blog posts about the project at large will continue on the company's rebranded Waymo website, the PDF reports ended in November. 

As is legally required of any company testing self-driving cars, Waymo officials say they will continue to report any incidents to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Waymo also tests in Arizona, Washington and Texas, where there is no accident report requirement.

Recently, Uber began testing its self-driving Volvo SUVs near its headquarters here without a permit; the DMV threatened legal action, and Uber moved its cars to Arizona.

Anyone who got a kick out of reading about how humans seemed to be the biggest issue with Waymo self-driving cars — which now include a fleet of 100 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids — will now have to dig a little deeper than the company site.  

Google-run Waymo unveiled its new self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans at the North American Auto Show Sunday. © Waymo Google-run Waymo unveiled its new self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans at the North American Auto Show Sunday.

"We’ve replaced our PDF reports with a new blog and website to continue sharing information about our technology," Waymo spokesperson Johnny Luu said in an email to USA TODAY. "This is in addition to reports that we publish via the California DMV website detailing safety-related disengages, and collisions we’ve experienced on the road."

The change was first reported by Business Insider.

Google started working on self-driving car technology more than seven years ago, tucking the small program under the wing of its GoogleX moonshoot division.

In recent years, the company has made bolder moves toward commercializing its technology, hiring former Hyundai executive John Krafcik to oversee that transition.

Currently, some three dozen companies — including automakers, tech firms and smaller suppliers — are working on self-driving car technology. Of those actively testing the vehicles on public roads as opposed to private sites, Google had been alone in being proactive about broadcasting what was happening to its cars in the real world.

As self-driving cars become more integrated into public life, it will fall largely to state and federal regulators to determine what aspects of the revolutionary tech are proving safe and which need to go back to the drawing board.

Follow USA TODAY tech reporter Marco della Cava on Twitter.

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