For the last couple of years, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has been letting manufacturers of autonomous cars test their vehicles on public roads. Autonomous vehicles are cars with limited (Level 3) or full (Level 4) self-driving automation.
Within the next year, the DMV will release its final regulations for limited autonomous vehicles. For now, they will require that such cars have a steering wheel and a licensed driver on board in case something goes wrong. As of now, the DMV says, there is insufficient safety data to allow the use of fully autonomous vehicles.
While the California DMV's proposed regulations are not yet final, here are the five most important as they now stand:
1. Cars must be certified by the manufacturer AND an independent third party
Under the proposed regulations, manufacturers would have to certify that their cars comply with certain vehicle safety and performance requirements. The vehicle would then require verification from an independent third party that it is able to perform key driving maneuvers typically encountered in real-world driving conditions.
2. A licensed driver is required in the vehicle
Level 3 autonomous vehicles can only be operated if they contain a licensed driver capable of taking over immediate control in the event the technology fails or there is another emergency. These drivers will also be responsible for any traffic violations that occur during operation of the self-driving vehicle.
3. Manufacturers only get 3-year permits for testing
Manufacturers approved for testing of self-drive cars can only initially be issued a three-year permit. This provisional permit allows the cars to be operated only by the manufacturer or made available to the public on a leased basis. Throughout this term, manufacturers must submit monthly reports to the DMV regarding the performance, safety, and usage of their autonomous vehicles, including accidents that occurred in autonomous mode and safety-related defects.
4. No gathering of driver data without consent
Manufacturers will be required to obtain the vehicle operator's written approval before the autonomous technology can collect any information that is not necessary for the safe operation of the vehicle.
5. Self-drive cars must be able to detect cyber-attacks
Autonomous vehicles are to be equipped with self-diagnostic capabilities that meet industry best practices. They must be able to detect unauthorized intrusions and alert the operator to a possible cyber-attack. In such an event, the driver must be able to override the autonomous technology.