One step forward, two steps back. This seems to be the case for driverless cars in California.
California's Department of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday released a draft of regulations for the public to use driverless cars. But it will still be awhile before just anyone can cruise around in a self-driving car.
Once approved, this draft of rules would allow self-driving cars to be used by the public on California roads. But there are a few catches under the proposed rules.
For starters, the California DMV still wants a person behind the wheel even if the car is fully autonomous.
What’s more, the government agency is also requiring anyone who wants to operate an autonomous vehicle to undergo special training in addition to already having a normal license.
The public will also not be allowed to purchase fully autonomous vehicles; rather, they would have to lease a vehicle from the company behind the car.
In addition, manufacturers will not only have to meet their own safety certifications, but will also have to undergo additional certification by a third-party testing organization. Once the car is approved, it will then be issued a three-year operating permit, during which time the manufacturer must provide a monthly report regarding safety, performance, and usage of their autonomous vehicles.
What this means
While California currently has regulations governing testing on public roads, it has not yet established safety standards for self-driving systems for public use. The proposed draft is the first step in putting regulations in place for opening up the tech to the public.
However, the proposed rules are not likely to please companies like Google and others developing autonomous technology because it makes the process of bringing their self-driving cars to market more difficult. If the proposed rules are approved, it may even drive car and tech companies to test and develop their self-driving technology in other states were rules are more lax or nonexistent.
The DMV established testing rules for autonomous vehicles in 2014, and was originally supposed to have rules for public use in place by January 1, 2015. However, given the complex nature of the rules, the agency is erring on the side of caution.
"Our concern is safety," a California DMV spokesperson said during a press call Wednesday. "The whole guiding principle to us in mulling out these regulations is ensuring, as the statute requires us to do, is ensuring the vehicles are safe for deployment on California streets."