Summary: Considering the experimental stage of Google’s self-driving cars, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has issued new rules that will require “autonomous” vehicles to have steering wheels and brake pedals so that drivers in need could take over immediate physical control of such cars.
California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has issued new rules for “autonomous” vehicles like the self-driving cars of Google to ensure presence of parallel manual controls that could be used to override autonomous mode.
According to the rules, “Autonomous mode” means an autonomous vehicle that is operated or driven without active physical control by a natural person sitting in the vehicle’s driver’s seat, and driven with the autonomous technology engaged.
Earlier this year Google had asked for and received permission to test autonomous cars in California, but the new rules make it mandatory to equip such vehicles with manual controls – something that was not present in the early prototypes that Google had shown to the world.
While Google can still test cars without such manual controls on private roads in California, public roads are off limits without compliance: which may mean further adjustment of interior space of vehicles and also a fresh look at other safety standards.
Besides the “manual control” imperatives, the greater part of the new rules are concerned with insurance and surety provisions with manufacturers of “autonomous” vehicles required to obtain proper testing permits, and provide instruments of insurance amounting to five million dollars.
Also the provisions that define who can be an “autonomous vehicle test driver” say such a person cannot be the at-fault driver of a motor vehicle involved in an accident that resulted in injury or death of any person. Also, the test driver of an autonomous vehicle will need to prove that for “the ten years immediately preceding application to the department was not convicted for driving or operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or any drug, and did not suffer any driver’s license suspension or revocation based on driving or operating any vehicle under the influence of alcohol or of any drug.”
With the new rules in place, which are to come into effect from the middle of September this year, Google seems firmly set on the path to make self-driving vehicles viable for the masses. While some are viewing the new rules as a setback for Google’s promotion of futuristic looks in their vehicles, almost everyone, including Google spokespersons, agrees that it’s better to err on the side of caution.
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