Google self-driving car project names general counsel as scrutiny rises

Mon Jul 11, 2016 7:12pm EDT
 
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O: Quote) Google self-driving car project said on Monday it appointed its first general counsel, as U.S. regulators increase their scrutiny of autonomous vehicles.

Google has logged more than 1.7 million miles (2.7 million km) of autonomous driving in testing in Texas, California, Arizona and Washington state. It has said it has no timetable for making self-driving vehicles available to the public.

But a number of crashes involving the vehicles has caught the attention of regulators.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in March it was collecting information after a Google self-driving car struck a municipal bus in California in a minor crash. But it did not open a formal probe.

The agency has opened a formal investigation into the May 7 death of a Tesla Motors Model S driver in a Florida crash who was operating in "Autopilot" mode.

U.S. regulators are working on guidelines for such vehicles. They were supposed to be unveiled by July 14, but U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters last month they might not be released until later this summer.

Google named Ken Vosen as the top lawyer for its self-driving car project. He was most recently chief legal officer at The Climate Corporation, an environmental analysis firm and a unit of Monsanto Co (MON.N: Quote). He was also previously counsel at O’Melveny & Myers LLP. His hiring was reported earlier by Recode.

The move could be a sign that Google is preparing to make its self-driving car unit a separate company. The program is now part of its X research laboratory unit.   Continued...

 
A prototype of Google's own self-driving vehicle is seen during a media preview of Google's current autonomous vehicles in Mountain View, California.  REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage