Cars designed to be completely driverless, like that being tested by Google, are to be initially ...

Cars designed to be completely driverless, like that being tested by Google, are to be initially excluded from being granted licenses

From gizmag


To many, the concept of self-driving cars will still seem absurd. In California, however, they are very real. Not only has testing been allowed on its public roads since last year, but the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has now drafted regulations for the public use of autonomous cars.

California issued its first permit for testing an autonomous vehicle on its public roads to Audi in last September. Only this week we reported on its most recent license for testing, awarded to Ford. Now, though, the DMV is looking to set down what will be required in order for members of the public to operate autonomous cars as a matter of course.

The DMV says the "draft regulations are intended to promote the continued development of autonomous vehicle technology in California, while transitioning manufacturers from testing to deployment of self-driving cars." Among the issues that the regulations seek to address are vehicle safety, certification, operator responsibilities, licensing and registration, privacy, and cyber-security

The regulations will not simply be dictated from on high, however, but will be publicly consulted on first. Workshops will be carried out to gather input from industry, consumer and public interest groups, academics and the public.

"The primary focus of the deployment regulations is the safety of autonomous vehicles and the safety of the public who will share the road with these vehicles," says DMV director Jean Shiomoto. "We want to get public input on these draft regulations before we initiate the formal regulatory rule making process."

Apparently Google is "...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."

Key points and full article here

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  • I find the California decision completely justified : whatever are the big manufacturers saying, the autonomous cars technology is only at its beginnings and can't be considered safe or mature.

    Having a complete trust in such prototype systems just because their manufacturer says it's safe is non-sense. Every aspect of it has still to be discussed, be it the algorithms that will be used (will such a car choose to kill its driver or a group of children ?), or every legal/insurance aspect in case of accident. Will it be allowed to sleep in the car, or the be drunk ? Can someone prove there was a bug in the software ? Will the car be connected to some type of wireless network or be completely autonomous ? Can it be hacked ? Can it be carjacked ?

    And just to launch the discussion, Google refused for a long time to reveal the list of accidents where its autonomous cars are involved. Yes there are already many of them, did the mediad talk about it ? Are we sure to be correctly informed about this subject ?

    Now they accepted to release the information about these accidents, and even if nothing the numbers are still very low, someone noticed that the accident rate is 5 times superior to normal car statistics :

    Study: Self-driving cars have higher accident rate

    Of course it's only the beginning and the technology will improve, but it just mean that the most dangerous moment is this period, where experimental vehicules are on the roads and are actually making accidents, while the laws are algorithms are mostly yet to write.

    And don't take me wrong, I'll surely buy an autonomous car when the technology will be ready (I currently have an electric car, somehow I like new technologies), but I'd prefer not to be one of the victim that will allow the technology and laws to evolve.

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