Google group blasts DMV’s autonomous-car rules

Google, Uber, Lyft, Volvo and other members of a self-driving cars coalition are warning that proposals from state officials could shackle their autonomous-vehicle efforts in California.

The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets objected to Department of Motor Vehicles’ proposals to regulate the deployment of autonomous vehicles in California.

“The DMV’s proposal contains a number of provisions that would hinder these efforts and, as a result, the coalition cannot support the revised draft regulations as currently written,” David Strickland, spokesman for the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, stated in testimony at a DMV workshop Wednesday.

“The latest draft unfortunately creates new issues and concerns,” Strickland testified. “Some of these issues could greatly delay the benefits that self-driving vehicles can bring to safety and mobility for individuals.”

The primary concerns are connected to provisions to constantly ensure the technologies comply with local laws. California has 58 counties and 482 incorporated cities.

“The manufacturer shall certify that the autonomous technology shall be updated at least annually or by the effective date of any changes in the California Vehicle Code and local regulation applicable to the operation of motor vehicles,” the current version of the DMV proposal states.

The annual reports present the biggest roadblocks to deployment of the technologies, the Google coalition said.

“Most challenging is that, in order to obtain a permit for deployment, the revised draft regulations would require that manufacturers have submitted at least one of these annual reports, effectively imposing a one-year waiting period between testing and deployment,” Strickland said in his testimony. “Such a delay would impose an arbitrary hurdle without a clear linkage to safety.”

The coalition also is worried about requirements to cooperate with local agencies for conducting tests.

“The manufacturer (must conduct) the testing in cooperation with local authorities,” the DMV rules said in part.

The DMV also proposed that the manufacturer must provide “a reference to the ordinances or resolutions from local authorities” that specifies the rules for operations within each local jurisdiction.

“This provision encourages municipalities to promulgate their own regulations relating to autonomous vehicles—leading to a patchwork regime that could impose different requirements on vehicles as they travel from one municipality to a neighboring one,” the Google coalition stated in its testimony.  “Such a scheme would be so untenable and so unwieldy that it would halt innovation altogether.”

DMV officials insisted they are working to create workable rules of the road for autonomous vehicles in California.

“The DMV’s goal is to ensure the safety of the motoring public as vehicle manufacturers introduce autonomous technologies in automobiles,” DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez said in comments emailed to SiliconBeat.

The state agency said it held the workshop this week to gather input from interested parties, including manufacturers, consumer groups and the public.

“The department is anticipating written comments and plans to initiate a formal regulatory process in the next few months, which will include a 45-day public comment period and public hearing process,” Gonzalez said.

DMV officials didn’t have an estimated time for release of the final rules.

“We are years, not decades away from this becoming a reality for the public,” Strickland said.  “As it stands, the DMV’s proposal contains some provisions that would create significant barriers to a rapid and full-scale commercial deployment of an autonomous fleet.”


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


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