California’s newest plans to regulate self-driving cars are drawing scrutiny from automakers and consumer advocates. The Department of Motor Vehicles has revised its proposed rules in light of new federal guidelines out last month.
Eighteen companies have permits to test self-driving cars on California’s roads, from Ford to Google. Now state and federal officials are mapping out who will regulate what, once self-driving cars go mainstream.
Companies worry the result could be an awkward patchwork of rules that don’t line up. Here’s Ron Medford, head of safety for Google’s self-driving cars program, on the prospect of federal, state and local regulations:
“Having three layers of government overseeing the testing of self-driving cars could create a patchwork of local approvals – and is unworkable.”
The word “patchwork” came up so often that someone with the DMV started keeping track.
Meanwhile, skeptics like Carmen Balber with the group Consumer Watchdog worry that rules hinging on voluntary compliance will be unenforceable.
“You can’t simply ask an automaker – Did you consider this? Yes/no/maybe – and have that be a sufficient safety standard,” says Balber.
Several speakers urged the DMV to act quickly, with one saying self-driving cars will be ready for public use in years, not decades.