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Calif. Proposes New Autonomous Car Rules

October 05, 2016

Photo of Google self-driving car courtesy of Google.
Photo of Google self-driving car courtesy of Google.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has released revised draft rules for autonomous cars, providing a regulatory framework for driverless vehicles to be tested and operated on state roads in the future.

A public workshop on the draft regulations will be held Oct. 19 at the California State Capitol in Sacramento.

The draft rules reflect a shift in policy, since proposed regulations released last December required the constant presence of a human driver and prohibited vehicles lacking a steering wheel or pedals.

“The recently released Federal Automated Vehicles Policy sets a direction for addressing vehicle safety at the federal level, and California’s revised draft regulations take this new policy into account and focus on rules for California public roads, including testing requirements, enforcement of traffic laws, driver licensing, and vehicle registration,” the California DMV said in a released statement.

The agency also noted it has worked with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators to define the state’s role in regulating autonomous vehicles. The draft rules provide that before testing or deploying an autonomous car, manufacturers must certify that the vehicle meets NHTSA performance guidelines. The federal agency developed a 15-point safety assessment system.

California’s proposed regulations reference the six levels of autonomous driving, as defined by SAE International. The draft rules also seek to prohibit the advertisement of lower levels of automated systems — those that still require a human driver for vehicle monitoring and control — as “autonomous,” “self-driving,” or similar terms.

According to the draft rules, SAE Level 3 vehicles would still require the constant presence of a human driver to potentially to take control of the vehicle when needed. But vehicles meeting criteria for levels 4 and 5 will, in the future, operate driverless.

“These revised draft regulations represent the next step in the process to encourage public dialogue and collect feedback prior to the DMV formally submitting the regulations for consideration and adoption,” the California DMV said.

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