While the fact that Google, Bosch, Mercedes-Benz and many other companies have been testing driver-less cars on California’s public streets is old news, yesterday, California jammed on the accelerator and took a giant step forward, issuing its proposed set of terms and a summary of its self-driving vehicle regulations. But, there’s a catch, the rules require a driver behind the wheel.
As with many game-changing technologies, there is often a balance between the quick adoption and implementation of these technologies and need to regulate and test them. For years, reports of autonomous vehicle benefits have been touted – the opportunity to save tens of thousands of lives annually and to allow drivers to use their time more effectively. In fact, in 2014, Forbes published an article entitled, The Massive Benefits of Self-Driving Cars, suggesting that the time savings from driver-less cars would be worth between $99-$500 billion every single year. Read the full article here.
But, of course, with such revolutionary change, there are often complex issues to consider. Of utmost concern for California’s regulators was safety. California’s current proposal would require manufacturers to complete third-party vehicle testing, ensuring that the vehicles can perform as intended. Also, as mentioned above, a driver – trained by the manufacturer and with a specially-issued license – must be behind the wheel in case of emergency. Manufacturers would also need to submit monthly performance and safety reports to regulators, and they will likely need to disclosure whether information about users is being collected.
While the discussion of California’s self-driving vehicle regulations is far from over, this certainly advances the dialogue. If you’re interested in getting involved in the rules debate, the California DMV will hold two public workshops to gather input on the proposals, in Sacramento on Jan. 28 and in Los Angeles on Feb. 2.