Latest Draft California Driverless Car Regulations are Disappointing!

After a year of articles about the heated competition between California and Michigan as the leaders in the automated vehicles movement in the United States, California took a full leap forward and published proposed rules regarding the use of driverless cars on public roadways. Unfortunately, it seemed like more of a leap backwards. The proposal from the California Department of Motor Vehicles requires all driverless cars to have a steering wheel and pedals and a human driver with an “autonomous vehicle operator certificate” to take control of the car if necessary. This is essentially a continuation of the testing regulations that are currently in place.

The California DMV has been meeting with automakers, driverless technology developers, insurance providers, and academic institutions, so I believe many had higher hopes.  I, personally, thought we might see a shift in the business model – possibly transferring liability to the technology developer, or a change in the reporting requirements – reflecting the new capabilities of the driverless technology, or eliminating the requirement for a steering wheel and brakes.  To me – these draft regulations are disappointing because they’re trying to adapt the existing regulations and thinking related to our current automobiles to a very different application.

Governments around the world have been watching and waiting to see what the California government would propose and, sadly this may actually establish a standard for many governments going forward. I believe Chris Urmson, Director of Google’s self-driving car project, said it best: “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….We can do better.”

What do others think?

About Lauren Isaac

I am the Manager of Transportation Sustainability at Parsons Brinckerhoff. Recently, I won the William Barclay Parsons fellowship for my research proposal to study how the United States government should respond to driverless cars. As I'm working on my research, I thought this blog would help to disseminate my findings and provide a forum for feedback.
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