Driverless cars are coming to California. But before they get here the state must make sure they’re safe. Among the many concerns is who will certify the safety of driverless cars before they hit the road. Car manufacturers argue they should be allowed to do that. The Department of Motor Vehicle’s Bernard Soriano says that is consistent with what the auto makers do today.
"The model now for cars is a self-certification model in the United States," he says. "So every car that you see out there that’s sold in the United States is certified by the manufacturer that it meets federal motor vehicle safety standards."
Bryan Salesky is with Google, which is already testing its driverless cars in California. He says regulators would have to be brought in at the beginning of the design process if they truly want to make sure a car is safe.
"These are very complex systems," he says. "The DMV is not in the best position to evaluate the safety of any one of the products. Safety is something that’s built into the product from day one."
Salesky says the state can make sure manufacturers take the proper safety precautions but says the regulations should not be too restrictive.
But others say manufacturers have not adequately addressed safety under the current system of self-certification. Rosemary Shahan is president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety. She points to recent recalls involving General Motors and Honda.
"Our current safety recall system is broken," she says. "There are serious problems with our safety recall system and we need to take that into account as a state to protect our citizens."
Shahan says California should move slowly and limit the number of driverless cars it allows on the road in the beginning.
California’s regulations may be completed in the next few months.