Yesterday, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles “released draft autonomous vehicle deployment regulations” for so called “autonomous” cars. The DMV called the proposed rules “the next step toward allowing the public to operate self-driving cars on California roadways in the future.”
The proposed regulations begin by banning the sale and commercial use of driverless cars. Information giant Google, as well as auto companies Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Delphi Automotive, Tesla Motors, Bosch, Nissan, Cruise Automation, BMW, Honda, and Ford have been developing and testing autonomous cars. Google’s version is intended to work like a driverless taxi that picks up passengers and drops them off. Google’s cars do not feature driver controls like steering wheels, accelerators or brakes. They have on and off buttons. Traditional automakers have advertised their autonomous cars as vehicles that extend current autonomous vehicle features like self braking. Mercedes-Benz has suggested that you could drive it’s autonomous car to the airport and the car could then go park itself.
Three Google employees were injured in an accident while riding in one of the company’s driverless cars on a public road last July in Mountain View, California. Volkswagen was recently discovered to have installed “defeat device” software in 11 million of its cars in order to produce false results on government mandated emissions tests.
In a press release, California DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said “The primary focus of the deployment regulations is the safety of autonomous vehicles and the safety of the public who will share the road with these vehicles.”
California has proposed four rules for the coming development and deployment of autonomous cars on California’s roads.
1. Manufacturers must allow third-party testing organizations to certify the robot cars’ “compliance with specific autonomous vehicle safety and performance requirements.”
2. Driverless cars are banned. “A licensed operator will be required to be present inside the vehicle and be capable of taking control in the event of a technology failure or other emergency.” Operators would also be required to obtain an autonomous vehicle “operator certificate.”
3. Autonomous cars will initially be allowed for only a three-year test period.
4. The new cars can’t spy on their operators and must be reasonably hacker-proof. “Manufacturers must disclose to the operator if information is collected, other than the information needed to safely operate the vehicle. Manufacturers will be required to obtain approval to collect this additional information. Autonomous vehicles will be equipped with self-diagnostic capabilities that detect and respond to cyber-attacks or other unauthorized intrusions, alert the operator, and allow for an operator override.”
Google Gravely Disappointed
Google has not embraced the proposed regulations. Google spokesman Johnny Luu wrote, “In developing vehicles that can take anyone from A to B at the push of a button, we’re hoping to transform mobility for millions of people, whether by reducing the 94 percent of accidents caused by human error or bringing everyday destinations within reach of those who might otherwise be excluded by their inability to drive a car. Safety is our highest priority and primary motivator as we do this. We’re gravely disappointed that California is already writing a ceiling on the potential for fully self-driving cars to help all of us who live here.”
Meanwhile Austin, Texas where Google is also testing self-driving cars, is “thrilled” by the proposed California regulations according to a spokesman for Austin Mayor Steve Adler. Austin sees the regulations as an opportunity to steal more jobs from California.
Texas does not regulate autonomous vehicles. According to numerous news sources, Google has lobbied to keep it that way. Texas has actively solicited California companies to relocate because of Texas’ “friendlier and cheaper business environment.” During the last year, Toyota has been relocating it’s North American headquarters from Torrance, California, which is surrounded by the City of Los Angeles, to Plano, Texas which is about 20 miles north of Dallas.