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California seeks to ease rules on self-driving cars

13 Octubre 2017
California seeks to ease rules on self-driving cars

42 companies are testing 285 driverless vehicles with a license from the agency. The DMV hopes to enact regulations by mid-2018.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is changing its rules to allow companies to test autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the wheel - and to let the public use autonomous vehicles.

What's your take on the new regulations?

"The new California DMV proposal wrongly relies on the federal government, when there are absolutely no Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards applying specifically to autonomous vehicle technology", said Consumer Watchdog privacy project director John Simpson. On the flip side, the Association of Global Automakers said that the changes do not go far enough, given that a "special permit is still required to deploy, creating regulatory uncertainty and raising concerns about the ability of autonomous vehicles to cross state lines".

The DMV said the draft rules, allowing fully computer-controlled driver-free vehicles onto Cali's public roads for the first time, are part of an effort by the state to keep up with the technological advances made by manufacturers and developers.

On road safety, NHTSA has responsibility for regulating safety in the design and performance of vehicles, while states regulate drivers and vehicle operations.

But Congress is considering increasing federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) exemption caps from 2,500 to 100,000 - which is a wonky way of saying that it would allow automakers and tech firms to test (and eventually deploy) tens of thousands autonomous vehicles without components designed with humans in mind and required by federal safety standards.

California's proposed rules must still undergo a 15-day public comment period, which could result in further changes, and then a protracted review by other state attorneys.

The new regulations are a marked change from the DMV's previous stance on autonomous vehicle testing.

California's current rules require a licensed driver to be in the driver's seat while autonomous vehicles are being tested, a rule that some say is too stringent.

California is anything but the wild West when it comes to testing self-driving cars. Major automakers such as Mercedes, BMW, Ford, Nissan and Volvo all have said it will be closer to 2020 before those vehicles are available, and even then, they could be confined to ride-hailing fleets and other shared applications.

Wade Newton, a spokesman for trade group the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said Wednesday it appeared that California had recognized that "certain onerous" requirements could delay deployment of self-driving technology. "Today's action continues the department's efforts to complete these regulations by the end of the year".