Has California slammed the brakes on driverless cars?

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

California proposes regulations for self-driven cars.

SAN FRANCISCO: California motor vehicle department officials on Wednesday proposed self-driving car regulations that included mandating that a person could take the wheel if needed.

California regulators have unveiled a road map that would let people begin using self-driving cars — but manufacturers must prove the emerging technology is safe before they are chauffeured around town.The self-driving car, that cutting-edge creation that’s supposed to lead to a world without accidents, is achieving the exact opposite right now: The vehicles have racked up a crash rate double that of those with human drivers.

SAN FRANCISCO – Google’s self-driving car chief is adamant that the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ draft proposal on autonomous vehicle rules is misguided and threatens to rob key constituents of the benefits of driverless vehicles, including the blind and infirm.In this May 13, 2015, file photo, Google’s new self-driving prototype car is presented during a demonstration at the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif. Obviously, Google was waiting to see what came down and now that they’ve had some time to look through it all, their head of the Self-Driving unit, Chris Urmson, has responded with a Medium post. In a direct response to the DMV’s proposed regulations, which were released Wednesday, Google executive and robotic-car expert Chris Urmson wrote a blog post Thursday on Medium.com blasting the rules as a step back from progressive 2012 state regulations that allowed for the development of occupant-as-passenger vehicles without a steering wheel or pedals.

California rules-of-the-road for self-driving cars would have the potential to set precedent, and the proposed regulations were seen at sure to slow down the speed with which the technology would go mainstream. “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,” DMV director Jean Shiomoto said in a release. This may sound like the right way to program a robot to drive a car, but good luck trying to merge onto a chaotic, jam-packed highway with traffic flying along well above the speed limit. The new DMV rules, which will be debated twice in 2016 before being voted on, specifically note that such vehicles must have a licensed driver in the car at all times in order to be able to take control in the case of an emergency. 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 its capital city of Austin welcomed Google prototypes for company-sponsored testing. “Given the potential risks associated with deployment of such a new technology, DMV believes that manufacturers need to obtain more experience in testing driverless vehicles on public roads prior to making this technology available to the general public,” the agency said.

And I would be one of those people.” Last year, Rajkumar offered test drives to members of Congress in his lab’s self-driving Cadillac SRX sport utility vehicle. Under California’s framework, manufacturers would get a permit for three years, where 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. This maintains the same old status quo and falls short on allowing this technology to reach its full potential, while excluding those who need to get around but cannot drive.

People expect more of autonomous cars.” Turns out, though, their accident rates are twice as high as for regular cars, according to a study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor, Michigan. While we’re disappointed by this, we will continue to work with the DMV as they seek feedback in the coming months, in the hope that we can recapture the original spirit of the bill. Driverless vehicles have never been at fault, the study found: They’re usually hit from behind in slow-speed crashes by inattentive or aggressive humans unaccustomed to machine motorists that always follow the rules and proceed with caution.

Although the DMV is already a year behind schedule, I look forward to intensified dialogue between the state, manufacturers, and the public to improve the regulations. Google has been pretty damn transparent when it comes to their self-driving project, even publishing monthly reports that talk about accidents that took place and learnings from the team. It’s similar to the thorny ethical issues driverless car creators are wrestling with over how to program them to make life-or-death decisions in an accident. We must guard against unreasonably holding back California from doing what it does best, inventing the future.” In July, Newsom attended an Audi event at Sonoma Raceway that found the politician riding shotgun in a special Audi model that was capable of racing around the track at high speeds without any input from the driver. At the time, Newsom told USA TODAY that it was imperative state leaders encourage the progress of such tech. “A few years ago, it was illegal to test (autonomous cars on open roads),” he said. “The key is flexibility in rule-making.

There’s no “winners” or “losers” here yet, but the conversation about self-driving cars isn’t starting off the way that Google and other companies have hoped. Consumers simply don’t know enough about the technology to weigh in yet, which is why Google is trying to, and overdoing it sometimes, explain the ins and outs the best they can. He added: “California’s proposed rules are fantastic news for Texas.” Austin’s mayoral spokesman Jason Stanford said his city’s government already believes self-driving cars are “legal and safe” and is “thrilled to host innovative ideas like this.” California’s DMV has said it wanted regulations to protect public safety, but not be so onerous that they would stifle development of a technology that could prove safer than human drivers. 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. Google cars have been in 17 minor crashes in 2 million miles (3.2 million kilometers) of testing and account for most of the reported accidents, according to the Michigan study.

What has yet to be worked out are the psychological reactions to being driven by a machine, as well as the social ramifications of accidents and potentially deaths that result not from human negligence but rather a computer glitch. That said, Google’s project leaders like to not only point out the inherent statistical advantage of autonomous cars over human-driven cars, but also note that over the past six years of testing, Google’s cars have driven 1.3 million miles and been in just over a dozen accidents, all the fault of humans in other vehicles. Multiple veterans have come home from defending our country only to have their return to normal life challenged by their inability to drive themselves around in a car.

The DMV “did exactly what they should do, which is put the public safety first — and then take steps that promote the technology in a safe way,” said John Simpson, privacy project director at Consumer Watchdog and frequent Google critic. There will be two public workshops to discuss the new California regulations, one in Sacramento on January 28 and another in Los Angeles on February 2. Thilo Koslowski, head of Gartner’s automotive practice, says the notion of having autonomous car rules “that fall back on the driver defies the value of having a self-driving car. To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here. Yeah.” While Google rejects the notion that its careful cars cause crashes, “we err on the conservative side,” said Dmitri Dolgov, principal engineer of the program. “They’re a little bit like a cautious student driver or a grandma.” Google is working to make the vehicles more “aggressive” like humans — law-abiding, safe humans — so they “can naturally fit into the traffic flow, and other people understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Dolgov said. “Driving is a social game.” Google has already programmed its cars to behave in more familiar ways, such as inching forward at a four-way stop to signal they’re going next.

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