California Moves to Allow Autonomous Vehicles on Public Roads

By Paul Riegler on 21 May 2014
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A cablecar in San Francisco

A cablecar in San Francisco

California’s Department of Motor Vehicles announced that it promulgated rules that permit the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads in the state.  The rules go into effect September 16 of this year.

An autonomous vehicle, sometimes referred to as a driverless or self-driving car, is an automobile that is capable of operating without a driver behind the wheel.

Google has been running a pilot program, in which it has been testing a fleet of ten autonomous vehicles in Mountain View and other areas of the state, for several years.

The rules are largely intended for automakers, who must apply for a testing permit, certify its operators, and post a $5 million insurance or safety bond.  The permit is good for one year and must be renewed prior to its expiration.  Drivers must obtain an Autonomous Vehicle Testing Program Test Vehicle Operator Permit, which is granted only after completing a training program run by the automaker and approved by the DMV.  The program must include “defensive driver training, including practical experience in recovering from hazardous driving scenarios” and instruction “that matches the level of the autonomous test vehicle driver’s experience operating the specific type of automated driving system technology with the level of technical maturity of the automated system.”

In the course of conducting tests on public roads, the certified operator must remain in the driver’s seat at all times.

Automakers must report any accidents that involve the vehicle to the DMV within ten days, and must also report if the vehicle’s operator had to disengage the car’s autonomous systems for any safety-related reasons in the course of testing.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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