The first draft of California’s proposed requirements for the public use of autonomous vehicles has been met with disappointment by Google. In an email to Automotive News, Google spokesman Johnny Luu said the company was “gravely disappointed that California is already writing a ceiling on the potential for fully self-driving cars to help all of us who live here.”
The US state is moving to become one of the first places in the world to have a full legal framework in place for the regulation of self-driving cars. The latest move towards this is a set of draft regulations governing the use of autonomous vehicles on the road, released by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
Google’s main objection is to a proposed regulation which states: “Autonomous vehicle operators must be a licensed driver who possesses an autonomous vehicle operator certificate issued by the DMV” and who must be able to take over control of the car in case of emergency.
This requires manufacturers to include a steering wheel and break pedals — Google’s experimental cars currently have them for legal reasons, but the company wants to just have two buttons to start and stop the car. Google previously said it wants to take human drivers out of the equation entirely and maintains that full automation is the safest option.
The draft regulation also states the driver “will be responsible for all traffic violations that occur while operating the autonomous vehicle“. This goes against the grain of Google’s statements to CBS News earlier this year that it would take “responsibility and liability” for accidents in its cars. Other parts of the draft framework include requirements for independent vehicle testing, licensing and potential of user data.
In response to a DMV statement that “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,” Luu said that “safety is our highest priority and primary motivator as we do this”.
The California DMV is currently accepting consultation and feedback on the proposed legislation, and it’s unlikely that Google’s autonomous vehicles project will let the regulations pass undisputed or allow one state’s legislation to interfere with its future expansion.
Bloomberg yesterday reported that Google plans to make its self-driving car project an independent subsidiary of its parent company, Alphabet Inc. with the intention of offering a rides-for-hire service, according to “a person briefed on the company’s strategy”