California DMV releases proposed rules for autonomous vehicles without a driver present

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In a bid to help establish the state as a testbed for emerging technologies, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has released proposed regulations to establish a path for testing and future deployment of fully autonomous vehicles without drivers being present.

The DMV received substantial feedback from manufacturers, consumer advocates, local government, insurance companies, and other stakeholders, after it released revised draft regulations for testing without a driver and the deployment of autonomous vehicles in September 2016.

The proposed regulations were published in the Office of Administrative Law’s California Regulatory Notice Register on March 10, and mark the start of a 45-day public comment period, which ends on April 24. The proposed regulations address public safety concerns, while recognizing the potential of autonomous technology to improve safety, enhance mobility, and encourage innovation.

The proposed regulations:

• Recognize that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is vested with the authority to develop Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and enforce compliance with safety and performance standards for motor vehicles. The DMV requires certification to meeting these federal safety standards;

• Establish a framework for testing vehicles without a driver being present;

• Identify requirements that a manufacturer must meet in order to sell, lease, or otherwise make their vehicle available outside of a testing program;

• Address other key topics related to autonomous vehicle deployment, including driver licensing and responsibility, vehicle registration, and advertising of autonomous vehicles.

To gather public input on the new regulations, the department will hold a public hearing on April 25, at the California Department of Water Resources Auditorium in Sacramento. Written comments may be submitted beforehand to the DMV, and written and verbal comments will be accepted at the public hearing. After the public hearing, the DMV will complete the remaining steps in the formal rulemaking process and deliver the final regulations to the Office of Administrative Law for approval. The regulations are anticipated to be completed by the end of the year. Senate Bill 1298 (SB 1298 Chapter 570; Statutes of 2012) requires the DMV to create regulations that cover both the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles. The regulations to test autonomous vehicles with a driver present have been in effect since September 2014. Currently, 27 manufacturers hold an autonomous vehicle test permit in the state.

“California has more manufacturers testing autonomous vehicles than any other state, and the new rules continue our leadership with this emerging technology,” said California Transportation Agency Secretary, Brian P Kelly. “These rules protect public safety, promote innovation, and lay out the path for future testing and deployment of driverless technology. This rulemaking is the next step in working with stakeholders to get this right.”

The DMV’s director, Jean Shiomoto, added, “These rules expand our existing autonomous vehicle testing program to include testing vehicles where no driver is present. This is the next step in eventually allowing driverless autonomous vehicles on California roadways.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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