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California rules on self-driving cars face objections from Google and carmakers

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【Summary】California's proposals on self-driving technology encounter immediate objections from Google and other major car makers. They raised a litany of concerns about California's proposal at a hearing in Sacramento last Wednesday, and require the proposal to comply with federal news rules be made voluntary.

Original Claire    Nov 03, 2016 10:25 PM PT
California rules on self-driving cars face objections from Google and carmakers

The U.S. government recently announced a 15-point checkup list for fully autonomous cars. This was a clear sign of advocating driverless technology while also setting detailed standards for companies testing self-driving vehicles. 

Meanwhile, the California state government quickly followed the new federal guidelines by putting forward proposals to set new and mandatory rules for testing self-driving cars in the state. These include requiring a new autonomous vehicle data recorder to be installed inside such cars so as to record all of the testing data.This proposal is in accordance with the No.1 rule in the federal checklist. That reason being carmakers should store and share driving data with regulators when analyzing the reasons behind crash accidents and system breakdowns.

However, these proposals encountered immediate objections from driverless technology giants such as Google and other major car makers. They raised a litany of concerns about California's proposal at a hearing in Sacramento last Wednesday. In effect, they want their compliance with the new mandates to be voluntary. 

The state's approach "could greatly delay the benefits that self-driving vehicles can bring to safety and mobility for individuals," said David Strickland, who heads the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets that includes Google, Ford, Lyft, Uber and Volvo Car Group.

The proposal also requires that manufacturers generate a year of driverless testing data before applying for an operating permit, which tech and auto companies deem would force a 12-month delay between testing a vehicle and deploying it on public roads. 

According to Reuters, Ron Medford, director of safety for Google's self-driving car project, said California's proposal to require manufacturers to obtain local approval is "unworkable." The rule could prevent manufacturers from testing a vehicle that can travel from one area to another.

However, Brian Soublet, deputy director of the California DMV, said last Wednesday that the department wants concrete suggestions to help improve its proposal. Soublet said the department will be considering potential changes over the next several months, yet he did not give a timetable for finalizing the rules.

"The goal is making sure that we can get this life-saving technology out on the streets," Soublet said.

As a pioneering state in driverless technology, California is quick and willing to open the door for more companies testing self-driving vehicles. The state's proposal would allow for the absence of a human driver and a steering wheel in advanced fully-autonomous cars, which is already a big step compared with other states. 

But to tech giants, the new federal guidelines seem to pose more obstacles instead of being supportive in making self-driving vehicle testing easier to facilitate. They want a more loosened regulatory environment so they would fully concentrate on the technology development instead of caring about other restrictions. 

On the other hand, advocacy group Consumer Watchdog urged California to prohibit self-driving vehicles without a human driver until federal regulators enact enforceable standards.

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