Self-driving cars will someday be the norm on American roads. But until that happens, there are going to be a lot of awkward run-ins with people who don't quite understand the concept of a car that drives itself.
Case in point: this photo, captured by Zandr Milewski and posted to Facebook this afternoon, that shows what appears to be one of Google's self-driving cars getting pulled over by a police officer.
In a comment on his post, Milewski said that he had "talked to the driver" of the self-driving car. (Presumably, he meant the human sitting in the front seat.) He said that "apparently MVPD [Mountain View Police Department] doesn't get NEVs [Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, a classification of vehicle that is limited to slower-moving roads] and pulled them over to ask why they were all going so slow."
Google's self-driving cars are still being tested, and their speeds are being capped at 25 mph for safety reasons. They have also been programmed to be extra-careful on the roads. According to Google's self-driving car FAQ:
The cars drive conservatively. For example, they pause 1.5 seconds after the light turns green at an intersection because many accidents happen during this time.
So the next time you're tempted to honk at a tiny car driving at grandmotherly speeds ahead of you, just remember: it might be a robot doing the driving.
Update: In a Google+ post, Google's self-driving car project responded to the traffic stop, saying:
We want [self-driving cars] to feel friendly and approachable, rather than zooming scarily through neighborhood streets.
Like this officer, people sometimes flag us down when they want to know more about our project. 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!