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California: Self-Driving Cars Must Have Driver Behind Wheel

Eric Risberg / AP

Eric Risberg / AP

The Department of Motor Vehicles issued draft regulations today on how people will be allowed to use driverless cars. Among them is the requirement that a licensed driver be in the car and ready to takeover in case of an emergency.

Carnegie Mellon University engineering professor Raj Rajkumar studies self-driving cars. He says the rule makes sense.

"The technology for automated vehicles is not mature enough. These vehicles cannot operate under all possible road conditions for example," he says. "And the reliability of the technology has not been proven itself. So I think this is a very reasonable requirement."

But Rajkumar is less certain about a requirement that the cars be able to detect and respond to cyber-attacks.

"That I think is probably asking for a little bit too much," he says. "It is difficult and somewhat expensive to basically put this particular requirement on self-driving cars."

The DMV has struggled with how to know the technology is safe - before letting it move beyond the current testing of prototypes on public roads. As a result, the regulations are nearly a year overdue.

Google spokesman Johnny Luu says the company, which has led development of the technology, is "gravely disappointed" by the rules, which will limit Google's ability to deploy the cars as quickly as it would like.

California's proposed rules are subject to public comment and will not be final for months.


The Associated Press contributed to this article. 

Katie Orr

Former Health Care Reporter

Katie Orr reported for Capital Public Radio News through December 2015.  Read Full Bio 

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