SACRAMENTO, Calif. – On Friday, April 19, individuals of the auto manufacturing industry, government officials and members of the public gathered for the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ (DMV's) first public workshop on autonomous vehicles.
To help provide input for the future regulations surrounding the testing and use of self-driving cars on public roads, which the DMV is required to adopt by Jan. 1, 2015 thanks to SB 1298, the DMV asked the public and interested parties to give feedback during a workshop held at the Department of General Services.
“We would like the participation of a broader audience, and that’s why I think it was important to put a specific site on our Web page where people can look on there, get information and keep being involved,” Brian Soublet, the DMV’s assistant chief counsel and the workshop’s facilitator, told Government Technology magazine. “We’d like to see more than just the input of the industry of the manufacturers as we go forward.”
Major concerns addressed during the workshop focused on what requirements auto manufacturers should meet prior to the start of testing autonomous vehicles, as well what insurance requirements should be during testing, and what restrictions self-driving cars should have regarding the time, place and manner in which they are tested.
Some companies like Google are already testing their autonomous vehicle models in California despite the lack of official regulations Last March, when the autonomous vehicle legislation was first introduced in the state, Google demoed its Toyota Prius hybrid autonomous model at a press conference held at the state’s Capitol. By then, the company said it had logged more than 200,000 miles of driverless vehicle testing on the state’s roads.
Multiple Google representatives spoke at the public workshop to provide input on the testing requirements, one of whom suggested that auto manufacturers still have an opportunity to innovate even after a vehicle’s been certified to operate legally on state roads. One concern addressed during the workshop was whether manufacturers need to re-apply for certification if they continue to develop new technologies to their existing models.
So far, legislation states that the DMV will adopt regulations that require the submission of evidence of insurance, surety bond or self-insurance from auto manufacturers, and the submission and approval of an application to operate a self-driving car beyond testing, including equipment, performance standards or safety standards. In addition, the DMV may establish other requirements to ensure safety when the vehicles are on public roads.
But will California look to neighboring Nevada or other states that have passed autonomous vehicle legislation granted proper regulations are put into place? This early into the decision-making process, Soublet said he’s not sure.
California, he said, will be looking at what other states are both doing and not doing, however, Soublet said he feels California is “creating a template” for what other states can do. But perhaps the Golden State may borrow some ideas from states also developing legislation.
“Any time you’re developing standards, you may want to borrow from something that’s successful somewhere else,” Soublet said.
DMV Deputy Director of Risk Management Bernard Soriano said the department was very pleased with the comments received at this first workshop.
"The issues surrounding regulations of autonomous vehicles are complex, and it was good to hear from the manufacturers and other industry representatives about their concerns," he said. "This was the first step in crafting the regulations, and the DMV needs to learn as much as it can about the technology in order to develop good solid rules."
As the regulations are developed, the DMV plans to keep the public involved through future workshops and by providing information about the subject on its official website.