Tech pushes California to refine self-driving car rules

Several tech industry groups unhappy with the DMV’s proposed rules on self-driving vehicles are asking for a do-over.

In a letter to Brian Kelly, secretary of the California State Transportation Agency, the groups are asking the DMV to “recommit their efforts to the important task of developing and issuing practical, viable, clear and effective regulations that support, rather then prohibit the deployment of fully autonomous vehicles. ”

The letter, signed by TechNet, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Bay Area Council, CompTIA, CTIA – The Wireless Association, Consumer Technology Association, Information Technology Industry Council and Auto Alliance, repeat some of the complaints one of its members, Google, has voiced after the DMV’s December release of draft rules for autonomous vehicles.

Google has criticized the rules, which among other things would require a driver to be behind the wheel of the so-called driverless vehicles, as anti-innovation.

“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,” Google spokesman Johnny Luu said in December, as Queenie Wong reported.

From today’s letter, signed by the aforementioned groups: “It is… important to realize that the current draft regulation would ultimately mean that the transformative social and environmental benefits of fully autonomous technology would be precluded from being realized in California.”

The letter says the driver-behind-the-wheel requirement “misses the point” of the technology, and says the rules “miss a critical opportunity to increase safety and reduce accidents.”

The letter also expresses concerns about the parts of the DMV rules that involve collecting information from the vehicles: “The disclosures required for a wide variety of data go far beyond personally-identifiable information subject to notice and consent according to established federal privacy regulations and principles.”

Self-driving vehicle proponents have touted the technology as a help for those who cannot drive themselves. Advocates for the blind, who say self-driving vehicles would provide the blind with some independence, have also weighed in, taking part in the DMV’s first public hearing on the matter in January.

Google reportedly said at that hearing that if the DMV does not change its proposed rules, the company’s self-driving car would not be made available in California — where its autonomous efforts were born. Google also is doing testing in Texas, and more recently, Washington state.

Additional pressure on California comes by way of the other Washington: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said last month it is working on setting national guidelines for self-driving vehicles, and the Obama administration is committing billions of dollars to helping ensure the safety of such vehicles. California’s Kelly called it “great news,” Queenie Wong reported at the time.

Melissa Figueroa, press secretary with the State Transportation Agency, told SiliconBeat today that Kelly’s office has received the tech groups’ letter, and it will be submitted for consideration along with the other public comment on the matter as the DMV continues to work on the rules.


Updated: Corrected Melissa Figueroa’s title. She is with the State Transportation Agency, not the Department of Transportation.

Photo: U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt listen to Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving car project, at the Google campus in Mountain View in February 2015. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)


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  • Steve Jobs Soul

    So who is the driver in case of an accident? Google of course, ouch!!! An airplane is an infinitely easier technological task than to drive automously a car in city traffic and still, after all these years, they haven’t been able to take the pilot away completely. This Google “self driving” cars is a liability disaster in the making for Google. No wonder why they are making them now of styrofoam with maximum speeds of 5 mph or so. Totally useless using typical Google’s smoke-and-mirrors marketing hyperbolic hoopla.

  • Karl Rowley

    Google wants to test their unfinished technology on the street with you and me as the guinea pigs. Do you want them cruising down your street where kids play? There’s no certification of the software at all right now. Is Google putting the latest build on the car, and then heading out onto the road? Probably. They are playing with fire.