Autonomous cars without backup drivers could come to California roads before June

12 October, 2017, 01:36 | Author: Leticia Walters
  • Autonomous cars without backup drivers could come to California roads before June

October 11, 2017; Revised regulations formally proposed today by the California Department of Motor Vehicles covering deployment of robot cars and testing of self-driving cars without steering wheels weaken safety protections because they wrongly rely on nonexistent federal safety standards, Consumer Watchdog said.

But the federal government has offered only guidelines, not rules, on self-driving cars, failing to ensure public safety, advocacy group Consumer Watchdog said Wednesday.

Companies including Ford, Tesla, Apple, General Motors, Alphabet's Waymo, and others expressed concerns on April 25 when the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) held a public hearing about the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles. Now 42 manufacturers have permits here for 285 test vehicles and 996 backup drivers.

Self-driving cars will of course still have to abide by California's traffic laws and a remote monitor will be required to observe the vehicle and take control if needed.

"We are excited to take the next step in furthering the development of this potentially life-saving technology in California", California Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly said in a press release.

Driverless auto manufacturers must first certify that the vehicles meet federal safety standards and that they meet standards for operating in compliance with traffic laws. The rule-making process could result in enactment by mid next year, Soublet said.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration only requires self-driving vehicles to meet federal safety requirements in the design and performance of vehicles. Right now, these companies are testing cars that can at best be considered Level 3 autonomous, meaning they still require some human intervention.

"The DMV regulations for testing are a good first step", said Laura Fraade-Blanar, a post-doctoral fellow at the Rand Corp.

"We appreciate the (state's) attempts to streamline requirements consistent with the recently updated federal guidance", Newton said.

Last week, a Senate panel approved a bill aimed at speeding the use of self-driving cars without human controls in the United States, a measure that also bars states from imposing regulatory road blocks. The DMV is also issuing a new template for manufacturers to report the number of times the vehicle forced the human driver to take control because it couldn't safely navigate the conditions on the road.

Some consumer advocates had a different take.

The new regulations emphasize the state's recognition of federal authority in the development and enforcement of standards for motor vehicles and clarify local reporting requirements for vehicle testing without a human operator present. There are now 42 companies testing some 285 autonomous vehicles that are licensed with the DMV, officials said.

To be sure, this isn't a clear path for fully autonomous vehicles to overrun the streets of California.

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