Legislature(2015 - 2016)CAPITOL 106

03/17/2016 01:00 PM Senate TRANSPORTATION

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Audio Topic
01:08:43 PM Start
01:09:25 PM Presentation(s): Integration of Driverless Cars in Alaska
02:50:54 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Location Change --
+ Joint with the House Transportation Committee TELECONFERENCED
+ Integration of Driverless Cars in Alaska TELECONFERENCED
Ron Barnes, Google Inc. State Legislative Affairs
+ Industry Support Remarks TELECONFERENCED
Mike Sfraga, Vice Chancellor for Student
Advancement, UAF
Jim Dodson, CEO Fairbanks Economic Development
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
                         JOINT MEETING                                                                                        
            HOUSE TRANSPORTATION STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                           
            SENATE TRANSPORTATION STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                          
                         March 17, 2016                                                                                         
                           1:08 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
HOUSE TRANSPORTATION STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                                         
 Representative Shelley Hughes, Co-Chair                                                                                        
 Representative Benjamin Nageak                                                                                                 
 Representative Louise Stutes                                                                                                   
 Representative Matt Claman                                                                                                     
 Representative Dan Ortiz                                                                                                       
SENATE TRANSPORTATION STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                                        
 Senator Peter Micciche, Chair                                                                                                  
 Senator Click Bishop, Vice Chair                                                                                               
 Senator Dennis Egan                                                                                                            
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
HOUSE TRANSPORTATION STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                                         
 Representative Neal Foster, Co-Chair                                                                                           
 Representative Charisse Millett                                                                                                
SENATE TRANSPORTATION STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                                        
 Senator Mike Dunleavy                                                                                                          
 Senator Bert Stedman                                                                                                           
OTHER LEGISLATORS PRESENT                                                                                                     
Representative Harriet Drummond                                                                                                 
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
PRESENTATION(S):  INTEGRATION OF DRIVERLESS CARS IN ALASKA                                                                      
     - HEARD                                                                                                                    
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
Ron Barnes, Head of State Legislative Affairs                                                                                   
Google, Inc.                                                                                                                    
Washington, D.C.                                                                                                                
POSITION STATEMENT:   Provided a presentation  on the integration                                                             
of driverless cars in Alaska.                                                                                                   
Eric Taylor                                                                                                                     
Statewide Plan & Transit                                                                                                        
Division of Program Development                                                                                                 
Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOTPF)                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION   STATEMENT:     Provided  testimony   related  to   the                                                             
integration of driverless cars in Alaska.                                                                                       
Jomo Stewart, Project Manager                                                                                                   
Energy, Military, and Mining                                                                                                    
Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation                                                                                      
Fairbanks, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION   STATEMENT:     Provided  testimony   related  to   the                                                             
integration of driverless cars in Alaska.                                                                                       
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
1:08:43 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR SHELLEY  HUGHES called  the joint  meeting of  the House                                                               
and Senate  Transportation Standing  Committees to order  at 1:08                                                               
p.m.  Representatives  Nageak,  Ortiz, Claman,  and  Hughes,  and                                                               
Senators  Egan and  Bishop were  present  at the  call to  order.                                                               
Representative  Stutes  and  Senator   Micciche  arrived  as  the                                                               
meeting was in progress.                                                                                                        
^PRESENTATION(S): Integration of Driverless Cars in Alaska                                                                      
   PRESENTATION(S): Integration of Driverless Cars in Alaska                                                                
1:09:25 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HUGHES announced  that the only order  of business would                                                               
be  a presentation  from Ron  Barnes, Head  of State  Legislative                                                               
Affairs, Google, Inc.,  on the integration of  driverless cars in                                                               
CO-CHAIR  HUGHES mentioned  that  the  integration of  driverless                                                               
cars may  or may not be  a good fit  for Alaska.  She  said there                                                               
are  some states  that have  embraced new  technologies and  some                                                               
that have  been resistant.   She stated her belief  that Alaskans                                                               
should  be innovative,  out-of-the-box  thinkers  with regard  to                                                               
economic development.   She noted that there  are unique features                                                               
in  Alaska,  such  as  snow,  ice,  cold,  fog,  and  mountainous                                                               
terrain,  which could  be considered  barriers or  opportunities.                                                               
She related that  there is testing going on in  other states, and                                                               
it is  apparent that the  technology has not yet  mastered snowy,                                                               
icy conditions,  which could provide  an opportunity  for Alaska.                                                               
She noted that  although the presentation is  specific to Google,                                                               
there  are a  number of  other manufacturers  working on  similar                                                               
technology,  and the  Alliance  of  Automobile Manufacturers  has                                                               
been invited to participate in the meeting.                                                                                     
1:12:18 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  BARNES, Head  of State  Legislative  Affairs, Google,  Inc.,                                                               
("Google"), stated  that about  half of the  states in  the union                                                               
have  introduced  over 50  pieces  of  legislation pertaining  to                                                               
autonomous vehicle  technology.   He explained  that with  only a                                                               
small number of  exceptions, the pieces of  legislation have been                                                               
unique  approaches and  don't represent  a  cohesive approach  to                                                               
interstate transportation.  He said in  the Lower 48  people live                                                               
closer to  state borders,  and pointed  out that  there is  not a                                                               
different set  of requirements for  driving from  Pennsylvania to                                                               
Maryland  than  there is  for  driving  from West  Virginia  into                                                               
Maryland.  He explained that,  with 53 pieces of legislation from                                                               
half of the states, if every state  were to have its own way, the                                                               
vehicles would  be required  to stop  at every  border to  meet a                                                               
different set of  legislative requirements.  He  suggested that a                                                               
lack of  cohesive policy  is not  a good  recipe for  fostering a                                                               
technology and  developing something  that has a  great potential                                                               
to  save  lives,  provide  increased   mobility,  and  afford  an                                                               
opportunity  for convenience,  as  autonomous  vehicles did  when                                                               
introduced.  He  stated that Google views  autonomous vehicles as                                                               
a nascent  technology, and emphasized  that it's a  very exciting                                                               
technology.   Attention  from lawmakers  will eventually  flatten                                                               
the peaks  and valleys of  the approaches taken, because  it will                                                               
help the  states develop regulations to  exert whatever authority                                                               
is needed to  cover the vehicles.  He further  explained that the                                                               
autonomous  vehicles  are  road  worthy and  adhere  to  existing                                                               
federal  safety standards,  while allowing  software/mechanics to                                                               
guide it rather  than a human.  He suggested  an important policy                                                               
question  would  be  what,  if  anything,  needs  to  be  applied                                                               
specifically "to  the new  operator of the  vehicle."   He stated                                                               
that at this point Google would say, "Nothing."                                                                                 
1:16:28 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. BARNES  said that Google  has not identified  any impediments                                                               
against  the   operations  of   autonomous  vehicles,   with  the                                                               
exception  of   a  few  states   that  created   legislation  and                                                               
regulations prematurely.  He recommended  that for the time being                                                               
states  let the  technology develop  to  see where  it will  land                                                               
prior to making  policy assumptions about what it may  or may not                                                               
do.   He related that  the "wishfulness" for  autonomous vehicles                                                               
has existed  since 1939  and the  practicality has  existed since                                                               
the  mid-2000s.    In  the  last ten  years  the  technology  has                                                               
progressed  from  functionless,  to having  a  prototype  vehicle                                                               
which  can drive  passengers where  they  want to  go safely  and                                                               
efficiently.   He  noted that  it has  been a  quick ramp-up  and                                                               
there is still  a long way to  go in order to  understand how the                                                               
technology will be  deployed, the best means  for deployment, and                                                               
the necessary guidelines for regulation purposes.                                                                               
1:18:14 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MICCICHE  asked how mechanical  issues or  break-downs were                                                               
addressed with driverless vehicles.                                                                                             
MR. BARNES  responded that  the person in  the vehicle  could use                                                               
their  cell phone  to call  for  a tow  truck.   He related  that                                                               
Google monitors  its vehicles  and is  aware every  action, every                                                               
second,  they are  on  the road.   He  stated  that operation  of                                                               
driverless cars involves a very  controlled set of circumstances,                                                               
and offered that  in addition to redundancies built  into the car                                                               
for safety purposes,  there are also mechanisms by  which the car                                                               
can  issue  emergency alerts  similar  to  existing systems  that                                                               
intercede  on behalf  of the  driver such  as sudden  braking and                                                               
airbag deployment.                                                                                                              
1:20:47 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MICCICHE  asked, assuming Google  knows everything  about a                                                               
driverless   vehicles  movements   on   a   given  highway,   and                                                               
considering that under current statutes  liability is attached to                                                               
the driver, who  is liable for damages or injuries  incurred in a                                                               
MR. BARNES  replied that the vehicle  does not exist on  its own,                                                               
and ultimately  someone would  be the  responsible party  for the                                                               
vehicle.   Liability is  a complicated  issue; even  in low-speed                                                               
crashes in city  intersections it could be difficult  to sort out                                                               
fault. The  vehicles may be owned  by one entity and  operated by                                                               
another; therefore, they would be  under someone's legal control.                                                               
He mentioned  that this line  of inquiry  is one that  has piqued                                                               
the  interest of  the insurance  companies, which  have had  more                                                               
than  100  years  of  experience   with  human  mismanagement  of                                                               
vehicles.  He acknowledged that  generally humans are pretty good                                                               
behind the wheel, but there are  times when that is not the case.                                                               
The  legal  system is  paying  attention  for  how this  will  be                                                               
applied  to  laws  governing  torts;  an  area  of  interest  for                                                               
everyone  who is  involved in  the technological  development, as                                                               
it's very  transformative to  take the human  element out  of the                                                               
front,  left  seat. He  said  this  is  something that  his  team                                                               
considers on a daily basis.                                                                                                     
1:23:28 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BISHOP  noted  that  the vehicle  requires  the  use  of                                                               
sensors and lasers,  and asked what's been done  for cold weather                                                               
testing and where has it occurred.                                                                                              
1:23:59 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  BARNES  replied  that  cold   weather  and  certain  weather                                                               
formations present a  challenge for sensing technology.   He said                                                               
there are  millions of  raindrops falling from  the sky  during a                                                               
rainstorm,  but not  each of  those raindrops  is something  that                                                               
requires a vehicle  to come to a  stop for, and the  same is true                                                               
of  snowflakes.    The  issue   of  sensing  the  environment  in                                                               
challenging  weather situations  is a  known, and  the technology                                                               
has been developed  in southern California where  it is typically                                                               
sunny  and  75  degrees.    Google is  working  to  graduate  the                                                               
technology to  function in conditions which  more approximate the                                                               
rest of the country and the world.                                                                                              
SENATOR BISHOP  suggested that  Google entertain  the possibility                                                               
of cold weather testing in Alaska.                                                                                              
1:25:18 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  EGAN  noted that  the  technology  for the  vehicles  is                                                               
dependent on  interfacing with the  Google Earth  application and                                                               
the global positioning system (GPS).   He asked what happens when                                                               
a vehicle loses its GPS connection.                                                                                             
MR. BARNES  replied that although  the vehicles mapping  is based                                                               
on Google  Maps, the driverless  technology doesn't  work exactly                                                               
like  a   smart  phone  or   tablet  that  interfaces   with  GPS                                                               
coordinates to  obtain directions  from one location  to another.                                                               
He reported that  the vehicle could not, in its  current form, be                                                               
taken to "Anytown, U.S.A." and be  directed to drive to the pizza                                                               
shop or  the library; requiring  specific Google mapping  for the                                                               
area.    He explained  that  prior  to operating  the  driverless                                                               
vehicle in an area, the Google  car team first maps the locale in                                                               
great  detail.   The  driverless  vehicle  relies solely  on  its                                                               
operating computer to  provide a comparison to  the detailed map,                                                               
in order  to determine  where it  is and to  be able  to maneuver                                                               
SENATOR EGAN opined that Google  Maps worked great and asked what                                                               
happens when the vehicle loses connectivity.                                                                                    
MR. BARNES  stated that as  of now,  the autonomous car  does not                                                               
rely  on connectivity  to  Google Maps,  but  on the  downloaded,                                                               
detailed map of the area...                                                                                                     
SENATOR EGAN  confirmed that losing satellite  connectivity would                                                               
not create a problem.                                                                                                           
1:28:30 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HUGHES  asked about  liability requirements  and offered                                                               
her understanding  that some states  are requiring  that steering                                                               
wheels and brakes be retained in the vehicles.                                                                                  
MR. BARNES  stated that Google  is currently responsible  for the                                                               
actions of the car  and wants to ensure a safe  product.  The car                                                               
is a result  of research, but fostering  the technology shouldn't                                                               
be construed  as "providing the  recipe for the technology."   He                                                               
noted   that   the   secretary  of   the   U.S.   Department   of                                                               
Transportation has  announced a driverless vehicle  working group                                                               
through  the  National   Highway  Traffic  Safety  Administration                                                               
(NHTSA).  He emphasized the  need for cohesiveness and continuity                                                               
across  the   states  relating  to  the   regulatory  scheme  for                                                               
driverless vehicles.                                                                                                            
CO-CHAIR  HUGHES reiterated  her understanding  that some  states                                                               
are  requiring brakes  and  steering wheels  be  retained in  all                                                               
autonomous vehicles.   She said Google is not  a manufacturer and                                                               
that requiring  breaks and  steering wheels  could make  state to                                                               
state  travel  difficult;  considerations for  the  committee  to                                                               
MR.  BARNES  commented  on the  federal  state  interplay  issue,                                                               
explaining that  there are federal  motor vehicle  standards that                                                               
are  applied nationally.   Google  would like  to see  autonomous                                                               
vehicle regulations  solidified on  a national  level.   The role                                                               
for state  legislation may  become evident  as the  technology is                                                               
deployed.  He  explained that his role within Google  is to offer                                                               
advice  to legislators  regarding how  to view  self-driving cars                                                               
and provide insights into what Google is doing.                                                                                 
1:33:36 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  BARNES began  a PowerPoint  presentation,  available in  the                                                               
committee packet, directing attention  to slide 2, which provided                                                               
a  picture of  an  exhibit  from the  1939  World's Fair,  called                                                               
Futurama,  where people  are  viewing  a scale  model  of a  city                                                               
populated by autonomous  vehicles.  He pointed out  that 1939 was                                                               
not  far away  from the  initial days  of the  Ford Model  T, and                                                               
already people  were thinking of  ways to remove the  driver from                                                               
the equation.                                                                                                                   
1:34:56 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  BARNES said  slide 3  [showing a  family of  four playing  a                                                               
board game  in a self-driving  vehicle on a freeway]  depicts the                                                               
1950s version of  autonomy, and was used in  an advertisement for                                                               
a power  company.   The idea  for the  technology depicted  was a                                                               
result of  the electric company  imagining an opportunity  to use                                                               
electric magnets  to guide the  vehicle on the road;  depicted as                                                               
hash marks in the image.                                                                                                        
1:35:36 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. BARNES turned to slide 4,  titled "Leading Causes of Death in                                                               
the United States,"  and pointed out that the  causes listed have                                                               
provided the impetus to take the  driver out of the equation.  He                                                               
directed  attention  to  the  peaked  red  line,  indicating  the                                                               
percentage  of  motor  vehicle accident  deaths,  to  state  that                                                               
32,000  people  in  the  U.S., and  1.2  million  worldwide,  die                                                               
annually as result of motor  vehicle accidents.  Google considers                                                               
this to be an unacceptably  high number, especially for an action                                                               
that  could be  corrected by  removing  the human  variable.   He                                                               
added,  "Also by  removing some  of  the human  variable you  get                                                               
humans back into the equation."                                                                                                 
1:36:49 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. BARNES  moved to slide 5,  and explained that Steve  Mahan, a                                                               
blind man, was one of the first  people to ride in a Google self-                                                               
driving car.   Google asked where Mr. Mahan wanted  to go or what                                                               
he wanted  to do, and  the answer was to  go to the  cleaners and                                                               
Taco Bell.   Although Mr.  Mahan's work  is only 30  minutes from                                                               
his home  in a personal  vehicle, reliance on other  travel means                                                               
requires two hours.  Certainly,  he assured, Google is not trying                                                               
to replace mass transit with individual cars; however, self-                                                                    
driving  cars  could  be  a  transformative  technology  for  the                                                               
elderly or disabled  to regain a level of lost  independence.  He                                                               
explained that  self-driving cars may  also appeal to  people who                                                               
prefer  to start  work as  they leave  their driveway  instead of                                                               
upon arrival at their desk.                                                                                                     
1:38:56 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. BARNES  turned to slide  6 to  address the topic  of traffic,                                                               
and said  heavy traffic is  a global problem.   Google executives                                                               
think  that autonomous  vehicles could  be one  way to  alleviate                                                               
traffic  congestion by  providing  efficient options,  such as  a                                                               
share  vehicle which  could transport  10 individuals  throughout                                                               
the  course of  the day.   A  multitude of  potential uses  for a                                                               
vehicle left to  its own devices exists.  A  vehicle that doesn't                                                               
require a  human to guide it  from point "A" to  point "B", could                                                               
even result in societal benefits.                                                                                               
1:39:58 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  BARNES said  the Defense  Advanced Research  Projects Agency                                                               
(DARPA)  held  a  series of  contests  to  encourage  engineering                                                               
schools and researchers to  develop practical, autonomous vehicle                                                               
solutions.  The first contest was  a race over a 132 mile course.                                                               
The  furthest any  car got  was 7  miles; however,  by the  third                                                               
event, every  car finished  the course.   He  said that  over the                                                               
course  of three  years, autonomous  vehicles  have evolved  from                                                               
non-independent function  to being  able to navigate  a situation                                                               
over long  distances.  The  founder of Google, hired  the winning                                                               
teams head  engineer, whose team  assembled the  self-driving car                                                               
depicted on slide 1.                                                                                                            
1:42:25 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. BARNES  explained that slide  8 shows  maps from some  of the                                                               
driving that  Google has conducted  using its  first self-driving                                                               
vehicles.   One  of  the maps  was created  by  driving down  the                                                               
famous  "serpentine  like"  Lombard   Street  in  San  Francisco,                                                               
California.  This  famed street is good for  testing the vehicle,                                                               
due  to  the  multitude  of  externalities,  which  include:    a                                                               
downhill  grade,  left  and  right   switchback  turns,  and  the                                                               
presence of numerous pedestrians.                                                                                               
MR.  BARNES moved  to slides  9 and  10, and  said that  a Toyota                                                               
Prius was among the initial lineup  of Google's test cars but the                                                               
Lexus  hybrid  sport-utility vehicle  (SUV)  has  emerged as  the                                                               
long-standing model.   Mr. Barnes  pointed out the  laser located                                                               
top of  the car and the  camera underneath the rear  view mirror.                                                               
He explained that  it's through these sensors that  the car views                                                               
the  world and  orients to  everything happening  around it.   He                                                               
said it's  not enough for  the vehicle to sense  its orientation,                                                               
it must  also recognize potential  obstacles.  One  lesson Google                                                               
learned from  the earlier  prototypes is  that when  a driverless                                                               
vehicle tries  to re-engage a  human driver, for  safety reasons,                                                               
there is a  lag time for the human to  gain situational awareness                                                               
in order  to assume command.   Thus far, there is  always someone                                                               
in the driver's seat and another person in the passenger's seat.                                                                
1:45:58 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE NAGEAK asked  what happens when a  human driver is                                                               
under the influence of alcohol or drugs.                                                                                        
MR. BARNES replied that Google  would not allow an impaired human                                                               
driver to take over command.                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  NAGEAK  clarified that  he  meant  the driver  of                                                               
another car, not the self-driving  vehicle; Google has no control                                                               
over other drivers.                                                                                                             
CO-CHAIR HUGHES restated  the question, to ask  how an autonomous                                                               
car would  handle a situation  where another car in  the vicinity                                                               
was out of control.                                                                                                             
MR. BARNES  responded that  the human  driver, in  the autonomous                                                               
car, could override  the system and take control to  guide it out                                                               
of  the way.    The  autonomous vehicle  default  priority is  to                                                               
maintain a  safe situation.   He admitted  that one of  the major                                                               
challenges in  driving any vehicle  is the ability  to comprehend                                                               
and respond to other vehicles/drivers.                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE NAGEAK  offered a scenario where  the human riding                                                               
in the driver's  seat of an autonomous car is  reading a book and                                                               
not aware  of others on  the road.   He asked how  Google's self-                                                               
driving car reacts to situations that occurs out of the blue.                                                                   
MR.  BARNES answered  that driving  1.4 million  miles, which  is                                                               
what Google has  undertaken, is the key.  He  explained that much                                                               
like human drivers,  the Google autonomous programs  rely on real                                                               
life  experiences to  learn and  build  a profile  for the  self-                                                               
driving vehicles.   In  Washington, D.C.,  there are  many bikers                                                               
and bike  lanes, but not  all bikers are in  the bike lanes.   He                                                               
explained that  when bikers are  present in bike lanes,  a driver                                                               
anticipates  the  biker's  action.   Google  is  doing  something                                                               
similar  with the  autonomous car  by  situation programing  that                                                               
directs the car to a position of safety.                                                                                        
1:50:22 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  EGAN offered  his  assumption  that collision  avoidance                                                               
technology is built into the Google vehicles.                                                                                   
MR.  BARNES concurred,  and explained  that  the mainstream  cars                                                               
being  produced,  now  have  collision  avoidance  technology  to                                                               
essentially override  a human's  instinctive response in  a known                                                               
circumstance.   He informed  the committee that  the view  that a                                                               
Google  car  has of  the  world  is  superior  to that  of  human                                                               
drivers.  For example, the radar  can detect a bike rider through                                                               
a hedge before he/she enters  the human driver's visibility.  The                                                               
instinct, when programming  these cars, is to  default to safety,                                                               
he  said,  noting that  there  are  random variables  over  which                                                               
Google has no control.                                                                                                          
1:52:36 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HUGHES  considered how,  during the  time of  the Wright                                                               
brothers, no  one imagined the  jets of today and  their capacity                                                               
to fly  several hundred people at  once and possibly crash.   The                                                               
self-driving  vehicles   are  still   in  the  test   phase,  she                                                               
acknowledged and asked  how many miles have been  driven and what                                                               
types of accidents have occurred  that are attributable to Google                                                               
MR.  BARNES  answered  that  Google   has  only  experienced  one                                                               
incident, with an excess of  1.4 million miles being driven since                                                               
2010.   The accident  was at  a very low  speed, between  two and                                                               
five  miles per  hour  (MPH).   He reported  that,  in one  week,                                                               
Google drives  its test  vehicles in excess  of what  the average                                                               
American drives  per year.   A  substantial number  of driverless                                                               
cars are  on the road in  Mountain View, California.   He relayed                                                               
that there  have been  incidents of the  Google cars  being rear-                                                               
ended or a  collision when a driver ran through  a stop sign, but                                                               
none of these incidents were  the fault of the self-driving cars.                                                               
The benefit  of such incidences  is that now the  Google vehicles                                                               
know what happened,  understood why it happened,  and can account                                                               
for the factors  in future situations.   Additionally, instead of                                                               
one  driver/person  having  a learning  experience,  all  of  the                                                               
Google  cars have  received information  regarding the  incidents                                                               
and the benefit is thus multiplied.                                                                                             
1:56:07 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN  asked  Mr.  Barnes   if  he  has  had  an                                                               
opportunity to ride in a Google self-driving vehicle.                                                                           
MR. BARNES answered yes.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN asked Mr.  Barnes to describe his firsthand                                                               
experience.   Additionally,  he asked  for a  description of  the                                                               
Mountain View area,  where most of Google's  cars reside, whether                                                               
the   locale  is   comprised  of   primarily   city  streets   or                                                               
highway/interstate  travel.    He asked  whether,  when  speaking                                                               
about  the entire  fleet of  cars, how  the learning  advancement                                                               
occurs:   via  artificial  intelligence (AI)  software, or  human                                                               
reprogramming by someone  in an office entering in new  data.  He                                                               
offered his understanding  that part of the effort with  AI is to                                                               
have computers  learn from  things and  build knowledge  into the                                                               
database  without  someone  having  to  rewrite  the  program  to                                                               
accommodate for new information.                                                                                                
MR. BARNES  replied that Google  engineers reviewed  the incident                                                               
and ran  a few thousand  scenarios based  on what happened.   The                                                               
generated data was then entered  into the operating system of the                                                               
vehicles allowing  the cars to  anticipate similar  incidences in                                                               
the future.                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN  offered  his understanding  that  someone                                                               
actually programs in the new data.                                                                                              
MR.  BARNES  replied yes  and  no;  Google is  advancing  machine                                                               
learning.   He shared  an anecdote of  a Google  self-driving car                                                               
which encountered a  duck in the road that was  being chased by a                                                               
lady  in  a  wheel  chair  waving a  broom.    What  the  vehicle                                                               
accounted for was  a sudden obstacle in its  travel path followed                                                               
by a continuing obstacle.   The Google software and technology is                                                               
able to account  for experiences and build that  into the profile                                                               
of  what might  happen  and  what might  be  done  to manage  the                                                               
situation,  much  like  a  human  driver does.    He  shared  his                                                               
experience of riding in one of  the Lexus models and how exciting                                                               
it was to  experience the car as it made  driving decisions, such                                                               
as acceleration and steering.                                                                                                   
2:00:13 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. BARNES explained  that Google's initial work  was on highways                                                               
because  there  were  fewer  variables   on  the  open  road.  He                                                               
described  the   picture,  slide  13,  as   being  a  complicated                                                               
intersection  with  train  tracks,  cars, and  stop  lights,  and                                                               
explained that the tests are  designed to graduate in complexity.                                                               
He said slide 13 is essentially  what the car sees.  He explained                                                               
that the  purple boxes  represent other cars,  the red  boxes are                                                               
pedestrians,  and the  yellow  boxes  represent bicycle  traffic.                                                               
Although in the  scenario the Google car has the  right of way, a                                                               
red ladder in front of the  car indicates that the Google car has                                                               
not  yet determined  what the  pedestrians and  the cyclists  are                                                               
going  to do.    The  interesting thing  is  that  people in  the                                                               
Mountain View area  have reported that Google cars  are the worst                                                               
cars to  be around,  because they  obey every  traffic law.   The                                                               
Google self-driving  cars are also learning  to accommodate human                                                               
driver  idioms,  such  as how  they  indicate  their  directional                                                               
intent.    He explained  that  the  programing isn't  about  just                                                               
converting motor vehicle code into  ones and zeros and having the                                                               
vehicles follow preset commands.                                                                                                
2:03:58 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  HUGHES asked  whether Mr.  Barnes could  report on  the                                                               
average accident rate for human drivers.                                                                                        
MR. BARNES  replied no,  and pointed out  that it's  important to                                                               
distinguish  between reported  accidents versus  incidences.   He                                                               
said  that although  he's never  been in  a major  accident, that                                                               
doesn't mean there haven't been  close encounters.  He elaborated                                                               
that  he's bumped  into another  vehicle at  a traffic  light and                                                               
he's  been rear  ended at  an  intersection.   He explained  that                                                               
those  incidences did  not  get reported,  because  there was  no                                                               
damage, which  if reported would  put a significant boost  in the                                                               
accident rate.   He questioned whether humans drive  as safely as                                                               
statistics  indicate.    He  stated  that  for  the  self-driving                                                               
vehicle to have one incident in  6 years, over 1.4 million miles,                                                               
was a good safety record.                                                                                                       
CO-CHAIR HUGHES agreed  and noted that Google  cars are operating                                                               
at 25 MPH or  less.  She said human safety is  a big concern when                                                               
deciding  whether or  not to  implement the  use of  self-driving                                                               
2:08:04 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  EGAN posited  that driving  at 25  MPH under  the posted                                                               
speed limit creates a hazard.                                                                                                   
MR.  BARNES replied  that Google's  highway vehicles  traveled at                                                               
faster speeds, but  the city cars drive at 25  MPH, or slower, on                                                               
the  surface  streets.    He   said  that  Google's  self-driving                                                               
vehicles are  the result of  not just understanding  the software                                                               
but also the hardware.  Google  has refined devices in such a way                                                               
as to seamlessly interface the software and the vehicle.                                                                        
2:09:44 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  DRUMMOND  asked  whether  Google's  cars  require                                                               
wireless access.                                                                                                                
MR.  BARNES replied  no.   He explained  that once  the maps  are                                                               
loaded into  the car,  it becomes  familiar with  that particular                                                               
area.    He  explained  there   were  technologies  that  allowed                                                               
vehicles to interface.  He stated  that the goal for Google is to                                                               
use existing  computing technology, brainpower, and  resources to                                                               
make autonomous vehicles  work.  He said are  many questions that                                                               
needed  to  be answered  such  as:   deployment  of  self-driving                                                               
vehicles,   will   they   be   privately   developed,   licensing                                                               
requirements, and  whether to implement the  technology into low-                                                               
speed or high-speed cars.                                                                                                       
2:12:38 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  HUGHES  asked  whether  an  ethical  program  has  been                                                               
developed to provide decisions such  as choosing whether to hit a                                                               
cat  versus  hitting a  child,  or  a pedestrian  verses  another                                                               
MR.  BARNES replied  that it  poses an  interesting philosophical                                                               
question with  very concrete practical  outcomes.   The important                                                               
thing is  being able to account  for the type of  situation being                                                               
encountered.   He said that  in terms of ethical  decisions, much                                                               
like  the duck  in the  road, the  cars can't  be programed  with                                                               
every  possible scenario.   He  explained  that self-driving  car                                                               
decisions  evolve  from  gathering information  from  situations,                                                               
based  on  the  available  set of  circumstances,  to  bring  the                                                               
situation back  into safety.  He  said that in some  way it's not                                                               
too   different  from   human  decision   making.     Humans  are                                                               
programming  the  vehicles,  thus  the  values  of  humanity  are                                                               
inherent  to the  cars.   He  said that  Google's safety  program                                                               
director worked for the federal  government for 30 years advising                                                               
federal safety standards for motor  vehicles, and assured members                                                               
that   the  safety   standards  are   not  being   determined  by                                                               
unqualified, technicians or engineers.                                                                                          
2:15:29 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  HUGHES  offered  her assumption  that  the  programming                                                               
would contain a  type of ranking system to direct  the car to hit                                                               
another vehicle instead of a person.                                                                                            
MR.  BARNES offered  that there  could be  a myriad  of variables                                                               
versus two choices.  Google  executives understand that there are                                                               
situations where a moral choice may  need to be made to arrive at                                                               
the "least worst" result.  The  human element may be a detraction                                                               
as much as a  boon, if a driver is distracted or  not aware of an                                                               
approaching  situation.   An autonomous  vehicle  may provide  an                                                               
improved response  time as  well as  quickly analyze  the various                                                               
2:18:07 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  HUGHES pondered  whether  driverless cars  would be  in                                                               
general  use road  use in  three to  five years  or longer.   She                                                               
asked  how industry/manufacturers  are handling  states that  are                                                               
not   considering  autonomous   technology   and   a  means   for                                                               
incorporating it  into their  long term  transportation planning.                                                               
Additionally she  queried how the  road ways and  traffic signals                                                               
might look  different in  the future  with the  implementation of                                                               
autonomous vehicles.                                                                                                            
2:19:32 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. BARNES  replied that  roads will  continue to  host a  mix of                                                               
people  who prefer  to drive  themselves, as  well as  autonomous                                                               
vehicles.   The full-speed  vehicles will  take longer  to refine                                                               
than the high-speed,  and low-speed cars will be  best suited for                                                               
an urban environment.   He envisioned that parking  may change to                                                               
be  more peripherally  located  from a  downtown  area since  the                                                               
autonomous cars will  be able to drop  drivers/passengers off and                                                               
then park independently.   Requirements for parking  space may be                                                               
lessened with smaller autonomous cars  taking the place of larger                                                               
cars and trucks.   Regarding long-term planning,  he advised that                                                               
states review  existing codes now,  to eradicate  hindrances when                                                               
the autonomous  vehicle technology  is deployed.   He  noted that                                                               
there  are some  key  questions  for states  to  consider in  the                                                               
future scenario, and  offered:  "How would we like  to see all of                                                               
this play  out; what do  we need to  do to  get there; and  do we                                                               
think the technology  is going to develop in a  way that will get                                                               
us there?"   He mentioned  one use for autonomous  vehicles would                                                               
be to shuttle individuals to medical appointments.                                                                              
2:21:29 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  HUGHES inquired  about the  state's autonomous  vehicle                                                               
involvement,  and  where  Alaska stands  in  tracking  autonomous                                                               
vehicle technology.                                                                                                             
2:22:00 PM                                                                                                                    
ERIC  TAYLOR,  Statewide  Plan &  Transit,  Division  of  Program                                                               
Development,  Department of  Transportation  & Public  Facilities                                                               
(DOTPF),  said the  statewide long-range  transportation plan  is                                                               
undergoing an  update and the draft  is due later in  the spring.                                                               
It  represents a  policy level  plan,  with considerations  being                                                               
reviewed  to provide  a 20  year  forecast.   He reported  having                                                               
recently  attended a  national conference  which highlighted  the                                                               
issue of autonomous vehicles being on  the horizon.  He said that                                                               
DOTPF  is considering  not only  vehicles  for the  type of  uses                                                               
being discussed here  today, but also for freight  shipping.  The                                                               
department is  reviewing preliminary technology that  would allow                                                               
freight trucks  to travel  in platoons for  fuel efficiency.   He                                                               
said  that the  draft transportation  plan contains  a statement,                                                               
which he read as follows:                                                                                                       
     [DOTPF]   will   follow   national   developments   and                                                                    
     intelligent  infrastructure  and  connected  autonomous                                                                    
     vehicles  and seek  opportunities  to cost  effectively                                                                    
     and sustainably apply changing technology in Alaska.                                                                       
He said, although this is  a blanket statement, it indicates that                                                               
the  department has  autonomous vehicle  technology on  its radar                                                               
screen and is incorporating it in the agency's long range plans.                                                                
2:24:33 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HUGHES  asked whether his  attendance at  the conference                                                               
would allow him  to speak more about  individual manufactures the                                                               
different things the companies have planned.                                                                                    
MR. TAYLOR replied no, not specifically.                                                                                        
2:25:21 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN  offered  his  comments  about  the  moral                                                               
dilemma  Co-Chair   Hughes  raised  earlier.     He  offered  his                                                               
recollection of  the San  Francisco earthquake  of 1989,  and the                                                               
only person  who was  injured, when  the Oakland  Bridge cracked,                                                               
was  a driver  who tried  to jump  his car  over the  crack.   He                                                               
concluded  that  human  drivers   don't  always  make  the  right                                                               
choices.   He asked whether a  computer is able to  distinguish a                                                               
duck  from a  police officer.    The statistical  advantage of  a                                                               
self-driving  car is  that it  will  obey all  traffic laws,  and                                                               
conjectured  that insurance  companies could  experience a  lower                                                               
frequency  of incidences,  if everyone  were in  a Google  driven                                                               
vehicle.  The moral dilemma remains, he finished.                                                                               
2:27:26 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. BARNES  offered his understanding  that the moral  dilemma is                                                               
demonstrated in crash statistics  and that obviously humans don't                                                               
do  well when  faced with  a dilemma.   He  reiterated that  it's                                                               
humans who  are doing the programing,  and they are aware  of the                                                               
results of  their actions.  It's  one thing if a  technician miss                                                               
programs the location of a  restaurant, as such a mistake doesn't                                                               
represent  "an end  of the  world situation."   One  engineer has                                                               
confided in  him that his participation  in developing autonomous                                                               
vehicle  technology stems  from his  not wanting  his own  son to                                                               
face the  dangers of driving a  vehicle.  Mr. Barnes  pointed out                                                               
that  a father  would be  loath to  invent technology  that would                                                               
harm his children,  and he asked for committee  member's trust in                                                               
the  humanity of  the people  who  work for  Google.   Ultimately                                                               
choices will be  carefully made decisions programmed  to bring an                                                               
autonomous vehicle to a "least worst" outcome.                                                                                  
2:29:49 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR EGAN  asked whether Google  cars are the only  ones using                                                               
Google [street view].                                                                                                           
MR. BARNES  answered yea, as far  as he is aware;  however, there                                                               
are undoubtedly other  manufacturers developing similar software.                                                               
He explained  that Google Maps  is an open source  program, which                                                               
allows it to be overlaid to create other platforms.                                                                             
SENATOR  EGAN  opined that  even  for  a  community the  size  of                                                               
Juneau, under 35,000,  it must take an immense amount  of data to                                                               
cover the city.                                                                                                                 
MR. BARNES  reiterated that self-driving  car technology  is new,                                                               
and it would  be very difficult to map the  entire country in the                                                               
next two  weeks.   The maps  were not updated  on a  daily basis;                                                               
however, there is  an additional overlay of  information added to                                                               
the maps.                                                                                                                       
SENATOR  EGAN  asked Mr.  Barnes  about  a possible  scenario  of                                                               
traveling  between  cities  in Southeast  on  the  Alaska  Marine                                                               
Highway System (AMHS).  When  traveling to Ketchikan from Juneau,                                                               
would  the  self-driving  car  know  to  download  the  data  for                                                               
Ketchikan upon arrival.                                                                                                         
2:32:01 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. BARNES  answered that the  technology does not yet  allow for                                                               
that type  of adjustment.   Google technicians are  still working                                                               
out how  to make  the data  operate in  real time  and everywhere                                                               
under every circumstance.  He  opined on the exiting advancements                                                               
that Google has  accomplished, primarily in the  area of "machine                                                               
learning,"   where   the   vehicles  computer   assimilates   new                                                               
information to understand a situation  and develop an appropriate                                                               
action.   He said  that Google's  AI system,  "AlphaGo," recently                                                               
defeated the reigning  "Go" game champion in  Seoul, South Korea.                                                               
[The game of  Go is considered to be extremely  complex with more                                                               
variables than chess and requires  an intense anticipation of the                                                               
opponent's probable  moves and options.]   The  computer analyzed                                                               
the  situation  and interpreted  the  game,  including the  human                                                               
variable  of  playing  against  a person.    Thus,  the  computer                                                               
attained the ultimate goal of  understanding and learning and was                                                               
not simply processing information.                                                                                              
SENATOR EGAN  offered his assumption  that Google  dealt directly                                                               
with municipalities  and DOTPF to keep  up-to-date information on                                                               
road construction projects.                                                                                                     
MR.  BARNES  explained  that   making  government  data  publicly                                                               
available  allows others  to take  that information  and turn  it                                                               
into something  useful.  To  the point,  he said Google  Maps was                                                               
initially a static  map until someone, from  outside the company,                                                               
decided  to plot  the locations  of rental  housing units,  which                                                               
they were  able to  do because it  was open data.   He  said that                                                               
Google thrives off  of open data to determine when  a bridge or a                                                               
road might be closed,  as well as if a warning  or alert has been                                                               
issued.   He  said that  those factors  will become  increasingly                                                               
more  important   as  autonomous   technology  continues   to  be                                                               
2:37:26 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  HUGHES noted  that  autonomous cars  might  not have  a                                                               
person riding along,  and asked how law  enforcement would handle                                                               
a  collision  involving two  cars,  one  with  a driver  and  one                                                               
without a human presence.                                                                                                       
MR. BARNES answered that is  a real scenario.  Emergency vehicles                                                               
required certain  treatment depending on their  approach, and the                                                               
recognition  of  whether or  not  it's  in  pursuit.   It's  also                                                               
important for  an officer to be  able to have someone  to contact                                                               
when an  accident occurs.   He said  that currently  Google self-                                                               
driving cars operate in a  closed universe, and are not operating                                                               
CO-CHAIR  HUGHES asked  whether  Google  has actual  human-driven                                                               
cars  keeping the  autonomous  cars  in a  line  of sight  during                                                               
MR.  BARNES  offered  that  the  autonomous  vehicles  are  never                                                               
unmonitored, but  he said he  is not familiar with  whether there                                                               
is a line of sight protocol.                                                                                                    
2:40:06 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  HUGHES  conjectured  that,  if  the  computers  in  the                                                               
vehicles are self-contained, there must  be a person nearby.  She                                                               
reported  that  Legislative  Legal  and  Research  Services  have                                                               
reviewed  state policy  for requirements  that would  inhibit the                                                               
use of autonomous  vehicles and there appear to  be no conflicts.                                                               
She asked  for comment  on the  conflicting requirements  held by                                                               
some  states,  such as:    a  licensed  driver must  be  present;                                                               
vehicles  will have  a  steering wheel;  and  vehicles will  have                                                               
MR. BARNES  said that  the premise  of a  driver's license  is to                                                               
demonstrate  a   qualification  to   handle  a  vehicle   and  an                                                               
understanding  of the  rules  of  the road.    He explained  that                                                               
requiring  a licensed  driver in  the vehicle  is inhibitive  and                                                               
prevents  elderly or  people with  impairments  from gaining  the                                                               
mobility   and  independence   that  Google   has  intended   its                                                               
autonomous  vehicles to  serve.   He  declared that  he does  not                                                               
understood the premise of the  requirement for a licensed driver.                                                               
Google has argued against special  requirements from states, such                                                               
as  a  licensed  driver  and  a designated  license  plate.    He                                                               
explained that  the use  of a designated  plate announces  to the                                                               
world  that  it's  an  autonomous vehicle.    He  suggested  that                                                               
incidences  of "hot  dogging" might  increase, and  explained the                                                               
term to mean  a driver who swerves or  demonstrates other adverse                                                               
activity to  see how the  autonomous car  will react.   He opined                                                               
that requiring that  type of announcement to  the world undercuts                                                               
the benefits of the technology on the whole.                                                                                    
2:44:23 PM                                                                                                                    
JOMO  STEWART, Fairbanks  Economic Development  Corporation, said                                                               
that a  major project in Fairbanks  is cold weather testing.   He                                                               
said that  the city has  marketed itself as the  premier location                                                               
to   do  cold   weather   testing  due   to  its   affordability,                                                               
accessibility,  and reliability.    He  explained that  extensive                                                               
infrastructure  has been  built to  attract researchers  and that                                                               
that the  military has done a  good job of boosting  interest and                                                               
facilities in Fairbanks.                                                                                                        
2:46:34 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. STEWART  opined that  legislation is  usually passed  for the                                                               
safety  and harmony  of  the  residents, but  from  time to  time                                                               
legislation it is  adopted for reasons aligning  with the pursuit                                                               
of  opportunity.   He offered  his observation  that the  today's                                                               
conversation   has  focused   on  the   mitigation  of   back-end                                                               
eventualities that will  occur far in the  future when autonomous                                                               
cars  are  fully operational.    He  said  that, as  an  economic                                                               
development professional, he is  interested in the opportunity to                                                               
be on  the front  end of  autonomous vehicle  technology testing.                                                               
Google  needs to  test its  autonomous cars  in cold  weather and                                                               
Fairbanks would like  to extend an invitation to  the company for                                                               
that purpose.   The regulatory and legal structure  can be worked                                                               
out once the technology is fully  operational.  He noted that the                                                               
University of  Alaska Fairbanks  (UAF) Research  has successfully                                                               
worked with  industry on Unmanned  Air Vehicles.  He  expressed a                                                               
desire  for Google  to  visit Anchorage,  Fairbanks,  as well  as                                                               
CO-CHAIR HUGHES thanked the day's participants.                                                                                 
2:50:54 PM                                                                                                                    
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Transportation Standing  Committee meeting was adjourned  at 2:51                                                               

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Google Self Driving Car Presentation.pdf STRA 3/17/2016 1:00:00 PM