California’s new proposed self-driving car rules would allow for no driver behind wheel

California is relaxing some rules for testing of self-driving vehicles on its roads, including one that requires a licensed driver to be behind the wheel.

The state’s new draft rules, released Friday, come a couple of weeks after the release of federal guidelines on autonomous vehicles, and after months of pressure from tech and other groups that say the California Department of Motor Vehicles rules were too strict.

In addition, California Gov. Jerry Brown last week signed a bill that would allow for truly driverless car testing, but only for a couple of pilot projects at a testing facility in Concord and a business park in San Ramon.

Last December, California released self-driving car rules that disappointed industry players such as Google, which said that requiring drivers behind the wheel defeated the purpose of autonomous vehicles for groups that might benefit from them most, such as the disabled.

The revised rules say manufacturers can test autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the wheel as long as they meet requirements that include a two-way communication link between the car’s passengers and a “remote operator,” and the vehicle meets federal standards. The federal standards include a 15-point safety assessment.

Google said it has no comment about the revised rules at this time.

Another revision prohibits the advertisement of “lower level” automated technology from being advertised as “autonomous” or “self-driving” if a human is responsible for controlling the vehicle. (For example, Tesla’s Autopilot technology has been criticized for promising too much, with Consumer Reports and others calling on the Silicon Valley automaker to rename the feature in the wake of at least one fatal crash that involved Autopilot.)

The DMV is soliciting public comment on the revised draft rules at a workshop at the state capitol in Sacramento on Oct. 19.

 

Photo: A Google self-driving car travels eastbound on San Antonio Road on Oct. 22, 2015 in Mountain View. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

 

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