Google self-driving cars.

Google Fully Functional Self-Driving Car with Lidar sensor on its roof; artist’s rendering, courtesy of Google

Re/Code’s Mark Bergen is reporting that Google is “gravely disappointed” with California’s proposed new rules for self-driving cars. Google is most upset that the rules would require a licensed driver to be in the front seat of an autonomous car at all times.

The rules have not been set yet. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (CDMV) will be holding workshops to get feedback from industry, consumer and public interest groups, academics, and the public, Stu Robarts wrote for Gizmag. The regulations are expected to cover vehicle safety, certification, operator responsibilities, licensing and registration, privacy, and cyber-security. DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said:

The primary focus of the deployment regulations is the safety of autonomous vehicles and the safety of the public who will share the road with these vehicles.

Safety Standards

According to Robarts, to ensure safety, the CDMV plans to require automakers to certify that their self-driving cars comply with safety and performance standards. The vehicles also will have to be evaluated by a third-party performance verification provider. The CDMV will not grant licenses to cars designed to be completely driverless until it can evaluate their safety and performance and the regulations can be thus revised.

Google Weighs In

It appears the point about driverless cars is not sitting well with Google. The New York Times reports that Google spokeswoman Courtney Hohne wrote in an emailed statement:

Safety is our highest priority and primary motivator as we do this. 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.

Robarts wrote that during the CDVM workshops, it is expected that Google will weigh in on the proposed regulations, and it is possible that they will be revised to allow Google’s driverless cars to be on the roads. If that does not work out for Google, the company might have to keep the steering wheel and controls. However, as Bergen wrote for Re/Code, the proposed regulations would prohibit carmakers from selling self-driving cars, instead requiring them to be leased. That might create more of a service model for autonomous cars, which Google would prefer.

Public Workshops Planned

CDMV will hold public workshops January 28 at California State University in Sacramento and on February 2 at the Junipero Serra Building in Los Angeles. California currently permits 11 manufacturers to test their self-driving cars in that state, among them Google, Tesla, and Ford.

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