Transportation

DMV issues proposed regulations for self-driving vehicles

FILE - In this May 13, 2014 file photo, a Google self-driving car goes on a test drive near the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. California unveiled precedent-setting draft rules Wednesday that would slow the public's access to self-driving cars of the future until regulators are confident the technology is safe.
FILE - In this May 13, 2014 file photo, a Google self-driving car goes on a test drive near the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. California unveiled precedent-setting draft rules Wednesday that would slow the public's access to self-driving cars of the future until regulators are confident the technology is safe. AP

The California Department of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday issued a draft of proposed regulations for self-driving vehicles, with key provisions that a licensed driver must be at the wheel in case of emergency.

The proposed regulations, which will be subject to extensive public input before approval, amount to a historic initial step that could someday allow everyday motorists to travel in autonomous vehicles throughout the Golden State. The draft regulations prompted excitement among futuristic vehicle developers, but also deep concern from a local consumer advocacy group.

Drawing quick reactions were regulations that the initially deployed autonomous vehicles must be equipped with steering wheels, pedals and have a licensed driver behind the wheel. The licensed driver must be ready to take control if the self-driving technology fails, or in the event of another emergency.

Ford Motor Co officials said Wednesday that they would closely examine the DMV draft regulations to see if they run counter to Ford’s autonomous vehicles under development. The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker said it has a California autonomous vehicle driving permit to test its fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid sedan on California streets in 2016. The vehicle was developed at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto.

Rosemary Shahan, president and founder of the Sacramento-based Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, said the proposed requirement for a licensed driver behind the wheel places liability on the driver, when the onus should fall to the automakers developing the technology.

“The liability issue is paramount,” she said. “With this, what is the driver there for? So, you’re going to have less control and more liability. … Why would anyone lease a car like that?”

Shahan also said other issues need to be addressed, including driver training in the event of an autonomous vehicle failure and what to do if the electricity grid goes down.

Other regulations in the DMV draft:

▪ Manufacturers will certify compliance with safety and performance requirements, and a third-party testing organization will provide an independent performance verification of the vehicle.

▪ Manufacturers will be approved for a three-year deployment permit, requiring them to regularly report on performance, safety and use of autonomous vehicles. The DMV called the provisional permit “a critical first step toward the full deployment of autonomous vehicles in California.” Data collected will evaluate the safety and real-world performance of autonomous vehicles.

▪ Addressing privacy and cybersecurity issues, the DMV said “manufacturers must disclose to the operator if information is collected, other than the information needed to safely operate the vehicle.” It said autonomous vehicles will be equipped with self-diagnostic capabilities that detect and respond to cyberattacks or “other unauthorized intrusions.”

The DMV stressed that the draft regulations are meant to promote the ongoing development of autonomous vehicle technology and to obtain feedback from consumers, the auto industry, public-interest groups and academics.

A Northern California workshop to obtain public input has been scheduled for 10 a.m. on Jan. 28 at the Harper Alumni Center at California State University, Sacramento, 6000 J St.

“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,” said DMV Director Jean Shiomoto. “We want to get public input on these draft regulations before we initiate the formal regulatory rule-making process.”

The DMV said it also has asked California Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology, a research program of the University of California, Berkeley, to conduct “a peer review of the behavioral competencies necessary to safely operate autonomous vehicles.” The DMV said the peer review will include industry experts, researchers and other “stakeholder organizations” to supplement feedback gathered from the public.

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover

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