AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES: California to require licensed drivers in driverless vehicles

Dec. 17, 2015

The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles released a set of guidelines for self-driving car operations

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) released a set of proposed guidelines that could put ordinary people behind the wheel of autonomous vehicles, a move those in the business of developing driverless technology are concerned will hamper AV development and initiative within the state.

Among the proposed requirements, a licensed driver would be required to sit in the driver's seat, ready to take the wheel should an event occur that required immediate attention. That driver would also be liable for any roadway violations. Moreover, manufacturers would need to subject their vehicles to a third-party safety test and apply for three-year permits that would allow them to lease, but not sell self-driving cars to the public.

In a statement released by Google, which is currently developing a driverless car of its own, the company said, “We're 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.”

Supporters of the proposal, however, feel the DMV’s actions could lead to better research, specifically around human behavior and interaction around self-driving vehicles.

The DMV will accept public feedback at meetings in January and February in Sacramento and Los Angeles. California is the largest auto market in the U.S., and its rules would be a landmark in the development of self-driving technology.

At present, 11 companies have permission to test AVs on California’s public roads. There have been scattered collisions, nearly all involving Google cars. Those collisions have been minor and the tech giants insists each has been caused by other drivers, not by its technology.