The unexpected invention of driverless cars has come without any real legislation to govern how such technological advancements can be incorporated into a more slowly-changing society on the road.
Law makers seem unsure how to cope with the new phenomenon, but in a knee-jerk reaction announced on Wednesday, the California Department of Motor Vehicles published draft regulations that claimed that truly driverless cars should be initially excluded from operation and that a fully licensed driver must be behind the wheel of a car with autopilot features.
Chris Urmson is the director of Google’s self-driving car development team. He wrote a reaction to his potential legislation in his blog, claiming that the laws were “perplexing” and undermined the entire purpose of self-driving cars, which is to transport people without forcing them to drive.
“This maintains the same old status quo and falls short on allowing this technology to reach its full potential…” he complained. “[All the] while excluding those who need to get around but cannot drive.”
“We’ve heart countless stories from people who need a fully self-driving car today,” he continued. “People with health conditions ranging from vision problems to multiple sclerosis to autism to epilepsy who are frustrated with their dependence on others for even simple errands.”
Google argues that driverless cars should be allowed to proliferate as quickly as possible, especially since they are able to navigate busy streets more safely than most human drivers. According to Google, the cars eliminate the potential for human error that is responsible for most collisions.
According to google, its self-driving vehicles have been on the road for 6 years of testing and have only gotten in 16 minor incidents, each of which with human drivers to blame.
“We’ve seen in our own testing that drivers can’t be trusted to dip in and out of the task of driving when the car is encouraging them to sit back and relax,” explained Urmson.
Whether or not a licensed driver is in the front seat of a self-driving Google car is even less consequential for the newer self-driving cars Google is putting out; they don’t even have manual controls like steering wheels and ignition/brake pedals.
According to the DMV, residents could not ride in one of these cars until their safety could be assessed in “subsequent regulatory packages.”
According to the DMV, their draft regulations are an attempt “to address complex questions related to vehicle safety, certification, operator responsibilities, licensing and registration, privacy, and cybersecurity.”
They plan to hold a public consultation on their most recently released draft at some point in 2016. They’re likely to get a lot of push back from those who don’t have licenses and see the driverless car as a way to maintain their independence.
Self-driving features are now necessary to any member of the auto industry attempting to remain relevant. Ford recently announced that it had obtained the proper permits to begin test driving its own driverless cars throughout California. Ford’s vehicles will have manual controls and an autopilot feature.