California DMV’s proposal hits the brakes on driverless cars

Google Self-Driving Car prototype
Credit: Google

The Department of Motor Vehicles in the state of California has proposed restrictive regulations on autonomous vehicles, entirely banning driverless cars with no human passengers on board.

The draft regulation (summary PDF) also requires self-driving cars to be equipped with a steering wheel and pedals in order to drive on California’s public roads.

If the proposal becomes law, companies that are certified to test autonomous cars on California roads — including car makers BMW, Ford, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Tesla and Volkswagen as well as tech firms like Google and Cruise Automation — won’t be able to launch fleets of driverless vehicles for use in fully automated cab services.

Plus, manufacturers will be barred from installing features to allow cars to drive themselves to parking lots after dropping passengers off at their destination.

That’s not all: the proposal requires autonomous cars to meet new safety and performance requirements, with testing and certification by a third-party auditor. R Street points out that no such organizations currently exist.

In a statement to Automotive News, Google said that California’s rules would hold back a technology that could improve safety standards on roads and enhance mobility for people who can’t drive.

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.

While the proposal is a way away from coming into effect, it may well push self-driving car companies to look beyond California for testing and initial deployment of their vehicles. Austin, Texas mayor Steve Adler says the city is “thrilled” to host to such innovations.

➤ California DMV proposes ban on ‘driverless’ cars [Automotive News via The Verge]

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