Capitol Alert

AM Alert: California jump-starts discussion on self-driving car rules

A Google self-driving car travels eastbound on San Antonio Road in Mountain View.
A Google self-driving car travels eastbound on San Antonio Road in Mountain View. Bay Area News Group

With dozens of manufacturers pushing to get self-driving cars onto the road, California has grappled for the last several years to craft rules that protect public safety without hindering the development of a potentially life-saving technology.

When the Department of Motor Vehicles finally unveiled draft regulations in December, they significantly slowed the timeline for public availability of autonomous vehicles until the state is confident that they are safe. Most notably, the agency included a requirement that the cars have a steering wheel and a licensed driver ready to take over if they fail.

The DMV is set to hold one of two workshops to get public input on the draft, including training and privacy rules, starting at 10 a.m. at the Harper Alumni Center at Sacramento State.

Consumer Watchdog will be outside the venue at 9:30 a.m. to highlight failures of self-driving cars that have emerged during the testing process. The group’s leaders argue that the vehicles need a human driver behind the wheel and plan to testify in favor of the draft regulations.

MY PREROGATIVE: You can’t always predict what the big issues of a legislative session will be – last year saw the unruly combination of mandatory vaccinations, assisted death and gasoline use reduction dominate the Capitol – but you can try to steer the conversation. President Pro Tem Kevin de León and Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes will offer their priorities for 2016 in a conversation hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California, noon at the Sheraton Grand Hotel Sacramento on J Street.

A CHANGE IS GONNA COME: It’s been more than 15 years since non-Hispanic whites comprised a majority of Californians – Latinos are now the largest ethnic group – and by 2060, the nation is expected to follow. How will a rapidly diversifying population impact the political landscape? Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis, discusses California’s demographic shift over the last three decades and the lessons it might offer on the future of U.S. elections, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

I FOUGHT THE LAW: California’s 7th Congressional District was the most expensive House race in the country in 2014, a multimillion-dollar effort by national Republicans to unseat Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, that ultimately fell short by fewer than 1,500 votes. They’ll be coming after him again in 2016, and this time they’re backing Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, who will officially kick off his campaign tonight, 6 p.m. at Lutes Mitsubishi on Fulton Avenue. Among those scheduled to attend is businessman Doug Ose, who lost to Bera in 2014.

VIDEO OF THE DAY: Listen to Jerry Brown explain how the sentencing law he signed decades ago had unintended consequences.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Whittier, who turns 47 today.

Correction: Yesterday’s AM Alert incorrectly identified Betty Yee as a member of the Board of Equalization. She is the state controller.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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