Google Answers Some of the Pressing Questions About Its Self-Driving Car

And we've got a transcript you can annotate here. 
Google Car

Google continues to release more details about their autonomous car plans, as other carmakers ramp up their efforts and regulators try to finish drafting the laws that will govern their use on California roads.

The latest announcement that Google had decided to build its own car rather than hacking existing vehicles is not unexpected, but it is interesting. The company's vision is far-reaching, but it is going at the problem incrementally. Their prototype self-driving car would be an electric-powered subcompact with a battery range of 100 miles and no plan for human control. 

Following the news, there was a conference call early this morning in which Google's self-driving car lead, Chris Urmson, and its head of safety for the project, former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration deputy Ron Medford, answered questions from reporters across the globe. Below, you can find a selected set of questions and answers from that event, edited for clarity and length. 

I don't normally provide close-to-verbatim transcripts of events like this. But this period of time for this particular technology requires exceptional measures. We are witnessing the development of a truly consequential technology, and I see our job here as documenting what people said was going to happen. 

In the following months and years, we can return to these posts and either applaud them for their foresight or hold them to the statements that they made. For example, who will have access to the services these cars provide? Google says it will be people who can't afford cars and the elderly and the disabled. Is that how things will really play out? 

In other words: with a technology this important, anytime we can get the major players on the record, we should take a maximal approach to publishing those remarks. That's why I provided such a long transcript of my conversation with DMV regulators and why I've included such detail here. 

With this post, I've actually taken another step, too. The following transcript can be annotated on RapGenius. If you've got follow ups, extensions, or comments for Google, you can add them here, and I'll do my best to get answers. Or you can annotate simply to add your knowledge of the technologies and laws involved. 



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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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