Robot Car Rules Passing California Regulatory Hurdles
August 31, 2012

Robot Car Rules Passes California Regulatory Hurdles

John Neumann for - Your Universe Online

The California dream of driving a sporty convertible in the sun on a winding coastal highway with the wind in your hair and sun on your face may soon become a quaint and obsolete notion replaced with a plodding, self-driving, commuter-box that will be unable to drive faster than the posted limit.

The California state legislature follows Nevada regulations in advancing the dream of paying no attention at all to your commute by approving a bill for driverless cars to be allowed on California highways.

The bill, known as SB 1298 which allows autonomous cars to be tested on California´s roads, was passed by the state Assembly this week and was given the overwhelming thumbs up by the state Senate the following day, writes Kimber Streams for The Verge.

When signed by Governor Jerry Brown, Padilla´s bill would legally allow autonomous vehicles on the road and charge the state´s Department of Motor Vehicles with determining the standards for self-driving cars, rules which currently do not exist under the present vehicle code.

The text of the legislation says that autonomous vehicles “offer significant potential safety, mobility, and commercial benefits for individuals and businesses in the state and elsewhere.”

Ninety percent of traffic accidents are caused by human error, notes The Economist, implying that if humans are taken out of the process, there´s a strong probably that accident rates will plummet. The bill still requires cars to have a flesh-and-blood human being behind the wheel if something goes wrong, but if they are distracted with reading a book or taking a nap, how are they to react appropriately?

“It sounds space age, but it´s almost here,” Padilla told the San Jose Mercury News. “If we can reduce the number of accidents, that alone is worth doing this bill.”

Bay Area search-engine giant and future-thinking powerhouse Google has been leading the way in self-driving cars. The team behind the project asserts that the technology is largely already there and their self-driving cars are ready to hit the road right now, reports Aaron Sankin for Huffington Post.

Earlier this year, Google took a number of state legislators on a test non-drive of their driverless cars. “I had the pleasure of going out for a drive on the autonomous vehicle,” said California state Senator Alan Lowenthal. “I have to say that there are some still issues with it, but it´s a better driver than I am.”

Earlier this week, Google engineers announced that their fleet of self-driving cars have logged a combined total of 300,000 miles with at least some of those miles on roads in the Golden State.

In 2010, Google tested its technology with a drive down the famous Lombard Street hill, which the New York Times described as, “one of the steepest and curviest streets in the nation.”

Despite the bill´s widespread political support, some quarters have voiced reservations, particularly over what happens if driverless cars crash and lawsuits are filed.

“This does not protect adequately the manufacturers for liability concerns,” said Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers spokesman Dan Gage.