Google was forced to pull the plug on early self-driving car experiments after its test drivers fell asleep or applied makeup at the wheel, the tech giant has revealed.
In early experiments with at its self-driving car division, Google found test drivers in cars equipped to perform advanced driver assistance falling asleep at the wheel while at 55mph on a motorway.
The findings led Google to drop its highway driving assist feature in 2013, instead moving to research safer, fully-automated driverless cars, according to TechCrunch.
The company’s autonomous car division Waymo said drivers who were filmed using semi-autonomous cars in on the road testing took to doing makeup, hunting for cables and electronic devices and even sleeping, rather than keeping an eye on the road ahead.
“We shut down this aspect of the project a couple of days after seeing that,” said Waymo chief executive John Krafcik.
Mr. Krafcik told TechCrunch: “The better you make the driver assist technologies… the more likely the human behind the wheel is to fall asleep, and then when the vehicle says, ‘Hey I need you to take over’, they lack contextual awareness.”
The challenges of users driving dangerously while in driver assist modeled Waymo to focus on level 4 and level 5 autonomous vehicles – which offer greater levels of vehicle autonomy without the need for driver interaction.
Google’s focus on fully-autonomous cars is at odds with electronic car giant Tesla, which has pushed ahead with its autopilot feature, which the company has said is intended to keep the car in the lane on the motorway only.
The technology has seen one driver killed at the wheel of a Tesla Model S, with the death of Joshua Brown in 2016. However, the Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has said the technology is “twice as good as a person” and has been credited with helping drivers avoid accidents automatically.