'May I see your license?' Why police pulled over Google's self-driving car

One of Google's autonomous vehicles gets a talking-to by an officer of the law.

The Google vehicle is pulled over by the Mountain View Police Department officer. Image: Google

When a Californian police officer stopped a car for crawling along at an unusually slow speed, he was surprised to find the culprit was a computer.

One of Google's prototype self-driving cars was pulled over yesterday for travelling at 24mph in a 35mph zone, near to Google's main campus in Mountain View, California.

The Mountain View Police Department officer stopped the car to talk to its operators about how "the car was choosing speeds along certain roadways and to educate the operators about impeding traffic per 22400(a) of the California Vehicle Code".

However, in this instance the Google vehicle hadn't broken any laws, as Google cars aren't permitted to travel more than 25mph under the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle Definition per 385.5 of the California Vehicle Code. The same regulations prevent Google's vehicles from being used on a road with a speed limit over 35mph.

"After 1.2 million miles of autonomous driving (that's the human equivalent of 90 years of driving experience), we're proud to say we've never been ticketed," said a member of the Google Self-Driving Car Project team in a post.

Since the start of the initiative in 2009, Google's cars have clocked up 1,268,108 miles in autonomous mode, where software is doing the driving, and are currently averaging more than 10,000 miles per week in public.

The self-drive technology is designed to cope with the unpredictable actions of humans and wildlife. Sensors on the vehicles can detect animals even at night and on the side of the road, as Google reported earlier this year, when it revealed close encounters with deer in Austin, Texas.

In the six years of the project, Google's driverless cars been involved in 16 minor accidents, in more than two million miles of autonomous and manual driving - with the self-driving car not responsible for any of these bumps.