California’s DMV puts the brakes on self-driving cars, for now

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

California opens road to public use of autonomous cars.

The California DMV released its draft guidelines for the deployment of some autonomous vehicles Wednesday, offering an early window into how regulators will address safety and privacy concerns surrounding the emerging technology. LOS ANGELES — The latest on the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ draft regulations that would allow consumers to get self-driving cars (all times local): A consumer group is applauding California regulators for draft rules that require a licensed driver be behind the wheel once self-driving cars are ready for the public.California unveiled precedent-setting draft rules Wednesday that would slow the public’s access to self-driving cars of the future until regulators are confident the technology is safe.California has published the world’s first regulations dealing with the routine use of autonomous cars on city streets — a big step toward the day when computers, not humans, are in charge of cars.

If they are adopted, manufacturers will be able to operate or lease – but not sell – self-driving cars to the general public for the first time in the US. The current draft rules appear to be a barrier to companies interested in offering fleets of fully autonomous vehicles as a ride service in the state. He says the technology hasn’t been proven safe and it makes good sense to require a driver at the ready, as well as other safety certifications from manufacturers and an independent tester. Silicon Valley giant Google has pushed hardest, already building a prototype without a wheel or pedals but rigging the hardware back into the cars pending the long-anticipated regulations.

This could, for example, allow car makers to lease autonomous vehicles to members of the public — something that would provide valuable real-world data about the car’s performance and its ability to handle diverse traffic situations. Anyone hoping to jump in the driver’s seat of an autonomous car will need to hold a regular driving license and an additional autonomous vehicle operator certificate issued by the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), according to the proposed regulations.

Initially, manufacturers would receive a permit for three years, during which time consumers could lease the cars but manufacturers would be required to keep tabs on how safely they are driving and report that performance to the state. The DMV suggests that a third-party organization test the vehicles to verify manufacturer claims that its vehicles meet safety and performance requirements. The agency was supposed to propose regulations at the start of 2015, but that process has dragged on over issues including how a person could take over when the car concludes it cannot drive safely, how to prevent hackers from seizing control of what amount to computers on wheels, and the privacy of data that the cars collect about their users. The DMV had the experience of testing whether humans are capable of driving safe enough, but it lacks experience in determining that a robot can drive safely. Car makers will have to disclose to drivers any information the autonomous vehicle collects that is not necessary for safe operation of the vehicle and obtain written approval to collect it.

The DMV has said it wants the regulations to protect public safety, but not be too onerous so that signature companies such as Google will be stifled in developing a technology with huge life-saving potential. After all, cars that can safely drive themselves under all conditions wouldn’t rely on drivers who may be drowsy, distracted, buzzed – or unable to drive because of their age or a disability.

The DMV will hold public meetings to discuss the draft regulations early next year, followed by multiple bureaucratic procedures, statutory waiting periods and more hearings. They have to go through a rule-making process that is expected to take at least half a year, so they aren’t likely to become law until the second half of 2016.

Autonomous vehicles could be a data gold mine, giving companies insights into the movements of individuals, which could be lucrative for personalizing advertisements or other services. The DMV says it wants public input on its draft regulations before starting the formal rule-making process, and will hold a workshop in January and one in February. Given the nature of the rule-making process it appears likely to drag on for some time, which should frustrate companies pushing to roll out autonomous technology.

Google is already testing its self-driving cars in Texas, which has no special requirements for the testing of autonomous vehicles, and the governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, has directed his transportation agencies to accelerate the testing and deployment of completely driverless vehicles on state universities, in partnership with Uber. The road to Wednesday’s regulations began several years ago, when Google approached a California legislator about getting formal approval for testing the company already was doing on California freeways.

Department of Transportation signaled that it was reviewing its own guidance on self-driving cars with an eye toward getting them into broad public circulation. Google believes the safest path is to take people out of the equation by having control limited to stop and go buttons, with the leader of Google’s project saying that humans are “the bug” in the driving task.

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