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Car and Driver: A Little Less Autonomous: California’s New Rules Prohibit Driverless Cars

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Google Self-Driving Car


The California Department of Motor Vehicles just enacted a whole spate of new laws aimed at regulating the testing of self-driving cars—and major players like Google are not happy.As Automotive News reports, the rules put strict limitations on automakers planning to test autonomous cars on the state’s public roads. There are four key aspects to the new law:

  1. -
  2. Manufacturers must submit autonomous vehicles to third-party testing to verify the car’s “ability to perform key driving maneuvers that are typically encountered in real-world driving conditions.”-
  3. A licensed driver with an autonomous vehicle operator certificate, issued by the California DMV, must be present in the vehicle at all times, “and must be capable of taking over immediate control in the event of an autonomous technology failure or other emergency.” In addition, the operator will be responsible for all traffic violations that occur while operating the autonomous vehicle.-
  4. Manufacturers must apply for a permit, and submit monthly reports on performance, safety, and usage of autonomous vehicles, in order to test them on California roads. As a condition of the permit, “autonomous vehicles can only be operated by the manufacturer or made available to the public on no more than a leased basis.” In other words, no privately owned autonomous cars.-
  5. Manufacturers must also disclose to autonomous vehicle operators what information will be collected by the vehicle, and they must get written approval by the operators.-

The law also prohibits testing of autonomous commercial vehicles in California. “Due to the size of these vehicles, DMV believes that public safety is best served by initially limiting deployment to passenger vehicles,” the law reads.


The most surprising aspect of this law is the requirement of a licensed, autonomous-certified driver in the vehicle at all times. “The draft regulations exclude autonomous vehicles that are capable of operating without the presence of a driver,” according to the new law (read the full document here). “Given the potential risks associated with the 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.”


Google, for one, is chafing at that bit, and understandably: The tech giant’s koala-like autonomous pods famously do not include a steering wheel or pedals for human operation. “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,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”


As Automotive News reports, as of December 3rd, the following companies were licensed to conduct autonomous testing on California roads: BMW, Ford, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Tesla and Volkswagen Group; suppliers Bosch and Delphi; and Silicon Valley technology companies Google and Cruise Automation.


This story originally appeared on Road and Track.


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