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California DMV Baffled with Self Driving Cars

Updated on December 27, 2014
This is the real Google car that would be made by Google with electric motor and top speed of 35 mph. No human needed.
This is the real Google car that would be made by Google with electric motor and top speed of 35 mph. No human needed.

Self-driving cars will be arriving on your streets in just a few years. While this maybe cool, it also represents a myriad of safety and driving regulations that need to be altered, changed or created. For 2015, the deadline was the Dec. 31, 2014, and California's DMV has been unable to create any because they have no clue if the cars are safe. The technology in the cars filled with sensors will be the car's chief reason in buying one- they could be the safest of all cars, assuming the sensors all work in "real life" situations with real drivers in other cars.

Currently, there are seven companies testing various prototypes with Google leading the way. The Department of Motor Vehicles for California, you would think, just make the laws that are applied to driven cars to driver-less cars. It seems like a "no brainer". But, DMV regulators are asking:

  • Do these cars obey all traffic laws?
  • What happens if the car's CPU fails causing an accident?
  • Is the transition from a self-driving car to a human driver without problems?
  • Can these cars be certified as being 100% safe?
  • How can DMV create standards for them when there are no safety accepted standards for any of them?
  • Should DMV just allow the car manufacturer to certify them?
  • Should the State be responsible for testing them? or, Should a third party conduct the testing for safety?
  • Does DMV even have the expertise to create safety standards and testing of these cars?

This new technology is akin to what happened between 1900-10, when cars first appeared on the streets that were usually crowded with horse and carriage. But, you would think that any car-human driven or not- would have to obey all traffic laws, why should a driver-less car be exempt from them? They can still become a weapon if a sensor fails causing an accident and death. At the Federal level, the Department of Transportation has told all states not to begin creating any standards for these cars and that they have no plans in creating them at this time. But, because California is such a large consumer market for these cars, whatever California creates probably will be copied by other states or the Federal government.

It was in 2012, that Google pushed and got the driver-less technology approved. That law said that by Jan. 1, 2015, DMV would have published standards and guidelines what carmakers needed to do before they can be sold to the public. Since then, Google cars and others, have been on the roads in the driver-less mode. According to these carmakers, there have been very few accidents involving them because of their radar, sensors, and cameras. But, have these cars been tested when there are sensor, radar or camera failure? This is bound to happen without warning? I doubt it. Right now, the main focus is just to get them to perform safely when driving against real, unpredictable, human drivers.

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