Cars Without A Human Behind the Wheel

Autonomous cars without backup drivers could come to California roads before June

Autonomous cars without backup drivers could come to California roads before June

October 11, 2017; Revised regulations formally proposed today by the California Department of Motor Vehicles covering deployment of robot cars and testing of self-driving cars without steering wheels weaken safety protections because they wrongly rely on nonexistent federal safety standards, Consumer Watchdog said.

"A special permit is still required to deploy, creating regulatory uncertainty and raising concerns about the ability of autonomous vehicles to cross state lines", it said.

Not everyone is happy about the proposed rule changes, though.

Rather, the California regulations, are going to require manufacturers to certify that they've met federal safety standards before their cars become (driverlessly) street legal.

"It will also allow, for the first time at least here in California, to get a permit to allow the public deployment of the vehicles", Soublet said. "It will set the path toward the public actually being able to use the technology put out by manufacturers". The new regulations should be in force sometime next year, although it may take a while after for companies to build out fully autonomous cars that comply with the new regulations. This iteration of the rules comes as a result of those conversations and the accompanying public comment. State-approved human drivers are required to sit behind the wheel of those cars.

The new regulations would trim back existing rules that require municipalities to approve vehicle testing. If the rules pass, we might see more prototypes out in the wild that lack standard features like steering wheels, pedals, and mirrors - the types of vehicles that Google and Ford have described as the ultimate future for automotive transportation. Coincidentally, U.S. Congress is now reviewing new legislation to restrict state power over self-driving auto rules and limitations.

Congress is now considering legislation that would allow companies to manufacture and deploy cars without traditional controls like pedals and steering wheels. Where committee members pointed to opportunity to expand on innovations in the space, critics said the decision gave carmakers too much leeway and not enough oversight.

A revised regulation which could take effect in 2018 would eliminate a provision in an earlier draft that required "physical control by a natural person sitting in the vehicle's driver's seat" in any autonomous auto.

The regulations leave matters like vehicle safety to the federal government.

The proposed regulations recognize that responsibility for motor vehicle safety resides at the federal level, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is vested with the authority to develop and enforce compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).

The proposed changes are in the public review phase for the next two weeks.

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