A California state law regulating the testing of self-driving cars took effect Tuesday, USA Today reports. Audi was the first automaker to sign up for permits, followed by Mercedes-Benz and Google, USA Today writes.
For more than four years, Google has been testing its autonomous cars on California roads, Justin Prichard writes for the Associated Press. That is at least partly because until Tuesday the state had no laws prohibiting carmakers from testing such vehicles, USA Today writes. Google’s self-driving cars are nearing 1 million miles of testing in California, AP writes.
California, which passed the law in 2012, joins Michigan, Florida, and Nevada in regulating the testing of self-driving cars, writes David Undercoffler for the Los Angeles Times. There could be as many as 230,000 new self-driving cars per year on the roads by 2025, Undercoffler writes, adding that an IHS Automobile study says that number could reach 11.8 million in the following decade.
In addition to Audi and Google, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Ford, and GM have also been testing self-driving cars, Undercoffler writes. At present, self-driving cars comprise “a tiny fraction” of the California’s approximately 32 million registered vehicles, AP writes. Google’s adapted Lexus SUVs comprise 25 of that tiny fraction, whereas Mercedes and the Volkswagen Group of America have tested two vehicles each, AP writes.
The new law requires carmakers testing autonomous vehicles to put up a $5 million bond in case of accidents, to have a net worth of at least $5 million, to train anyone who could be in the driver’s seat, and to have tested such vehicles in simulated environments before introducing them to public roads, Undercoffler writes. In addition, the law requires each autonomous car to be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles as a self-driving vehicle.
The law also mandates that any driver of a self-driving car be an employee of the carmakers, have a minimum of three years of experience as a licensed driver, have a clean driving record, be sober, and always be seated behind the wheel when a self-driving car is moving, Undercoffler writes. And the law requires that any autonomous car be operable by a human driver when the self-driving system is shut off, Undercoffler writes.
Audi says California roads are particularly important to the company because the Electronics Research Lab is located there. USA Today quotes Audi’s statement:
‘ERL engineers are working on a wide range of automated driving issues, including human-machine interface prompts that indicate when the human or the vehicle’ is driving.’