California DMV puts brakes on self-driving auto technology

Under new draft rules proposed on Wednesday, California is set to mandate that any self-driving vehicle must have a driver behind the wheel.

California regulators say self-driving cars of the future must have a licensed driver behind the wheel, at least until the technology is proven safe.

THE LEASE YOU CAN DO: Once a model has passed the safety checks, consumers could lease — but not buy — it. For the first three years of its deployment, manufacturers would need to collect safety and performance information and report that data monthly to the agency.

The draft also adds requirements for manufacturers to ensure that vehicles are protected from cyber attacks.

Google criticized the proposal in a statement to Automotive News, saying the company was “gravely disappointed” that California was “writing a ceiling on the potential for fully self-driving cars”.

At a public presentation in September, Sarah Hunter, a public policy director at Google X, was asked when self-driving cars would go mainstream, to which she replied “Whenever the DMV pass their operational regulations“.

The draft sets out the framework for how the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles wants to move from the current small-scale testing of prototypes on roads and highways to giving consumers access to the fast-evolving technology.

California’s go-slow approach could benefit Texas, which this summer emerged as a competitor in the deployment of self-driving cars when officials in the capital Austin welcomed Google prototypes for professional testing.

The draft regulation also states the driver “will be responsible for all traffic violations that occur while operating the autonomous vehicle”. It just came to attention that the tech giant’s long running, self-driving vehicle project will be having its own company under the search engine’s parent company, Alphabet. The state’s legislature required that the DMV develop regulations for both testing and the deployment of autonomous vehicles. Speaking to Mashable over the phone, Garza offered a hypothetical scenario where a customer buys a vehicle with self-driving capability but a changed law bans the owner from using that element of their auto.

The biggest challenge Google faces involves the lack of a driver behind the wheel and those who regulate travel not trusting software to get from point A to point B safely every time.

Steven Shladover, a research engineer with a UC Berkeley advanced transportation program, said the DMV faces a hard challenge in establishing the nation’s first real regulations for self-driving cars – something it was required to do by legislation in 2012.

The DMV will hold two public meetings to get feedback from members of the public – one on January 28, 2016, in Sacramento and one on February 2, 2016, in Los Angeles.

Steve Jurvetson


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