The majority of people reading this article in the United States will be all too familiar with the Department of Motor Vehicles. You stand in long lines. You wait for test results. You wait for a license picture. You wait for a license update, such as an address change to take effect. The DMV is now also the reason you’re waiting to stop sleeping through your commute.
For some time now, Google has been pushing to have regulations drawn up that would give them something to go off of to make their self-driving cars officially safe for retail sale and widespread use. The cars are, for all intents and purposes, almost ready. They can’t quite cope with fog, snow or human motorists’ incompetence at times, but their cumulative driving record, helped along by their shared software and data, has been enough to see them through millions of miles worth of real-world testing on a limited stage in California. The testing has thus far taken place on roads that Google has personally surveyed and earmarked, analyzing them on a deeper level than Maps or Street View is capable of. These test drives also never take place at speeds in excess of 25 miles per hour, even if that may seem a bit slow.
That said, the cars are surprisingly close to being ready for primetime, with regulators being the main obstacle at the moment. The issue here is that the DMV is simply out of their depth. They’ve been asked to write rules for a game they’ve never seen anybody play until now. These rules are supposed to ensure that self-driving cars will be safe and satisfactory for public use. Vehicle makers besides Google not wanting to share data is not helping. Testing in California is the first stepping stone on the way to public adoption. If the California DMV, after observing these vehicles in action, manages to put together a comprehensive rulebook, other states can follow suit and once Google has analyzed, tested in and been regulated in all fifty states, the self-driving cars will be officially ready for public use.
For the time being, public road testing, always with a self-driving car expert in tow, is carrying on as normal until a consensus can be reached with the proper authorities. Google says they plan to start testing the cars for use by the general public as soon as regulation goes through, with the first non-expert users, obviously, being Googlers outside of the self-driving car development house. Google originally wanted to bring the cars to market by 2016, but hope is scarce for that goal. One Googler, however, has stated hopefully that he wants his eldest son, who turns sixteen in about three years, to not need a driver’s license.