March 11, 2017 - 13:46 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - A little over a year ago, the California Department of Motor Vehicles issued draft regulations that would have put the kibosh on autonomous vehicles without a human driver, such as Google’s steering wheel-less prototype. On Friday, March 10, the agency reversed itself, putting out proposed rules that would not only allow for the testing of self-driving cars without a human driver, but also regulate the manufacture and sale of fully autonomous vehicles, The Verge reports.
But the DMV argues that it hasn’t changed its attitude about self-driving cars. As long as these robot cars are compliant with federal rules governing safety, and as long as they are “programed” to obey California traffic laws, then they are okay by California’s book.
Recently, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that the computer inside a self-driving car can be considered the "driver" of the vehicle. The California DMV, it would seem, is shifting responsibility to the federal government to ensure fully self-driving cars are safe and road-ready.
“If you program your vehicle to obey the law, it’s not going to run over pedestrians, or crash into other vehicles,” said Brian Soublet, chief counsel at the California DMV, in a conference call with reporters on Friday. “I don’t want to say we’re comfortable. We believe we’re requiring certification from the manufacturers that they’re ready and that the vehicles themselves are able to operate without causing some harm.”
To be sure, this isn’t a clear path for fully autonomous vehicles to overrun the streets of California. Manufacturers would still need to receive approval or a waiver for exemption from the federal government before operating a vehicle on public roads without a human driver or conventional controls like a steering wheel or pedals.