California DMV flashes yellow light for driverless cars

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17 December 2015
Donald Light
As a long time resident of the Golden State, let me say that the words “fair,” “judicious,” “California,” and “DMV” just don’t appear together in the same sentence. But, I’ll break precedent and say that the California DMV’s new draft regulationsfor driverless cars are (overall) fair and judicious. The regs begin to address the knotty social and legal issues of safety and liability. Manufacturers and a third party tester must certify the ability of a driverless car to meet specified safety and performance requirements. Operators (who used to be called drivers, back in the day) must be able to take control of the car and will be responsible for all traffic violations. It looks like the larger issue for insurers and trial lawyers of “who gets sued” is not directly addressed by the draft regs. Additional parts of the regulations include:
  • Special licensing for driver/operators
  • Obtaining driver/operator consent for collecting information “not necessary for the safe operation of the car” (hello interior-facing dashboard cams)
  • Ongoing reporting requirements by the manufacturers on the vehicles’ performance and safety
  • And, sign of the times, the vehicles must be able to detect and respond to cyber attacks
Some manufacturers may be (privately) impatient. But the reality is that these regs provide a path for broader deployment into a litigious and worried society of technologies still in the R&D stages.

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