The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has revealed a change to its self-driving vehicle regulations, which were made effective April 2. These changes have been in the works for a few years, and are to regulate self-driving cars with a driver inside. Meanwhile the regulations that the California DMV put out in 2014 were for self-driving vehicles with a driver inside.
The new set of regulations center around the introduction of two categories for autonomous vehicle permits. Those are driverless testing, and deployment, and each category has its own regulatory requirements. Vehicles need to be rigorously tested first in a controlled environment before a permit for driverless testing will be granted and some prototypes may be required to undergo testing with a driver first as well. Those steps need to be undertaken, in turn, before a deployment permit would be granted and each step will be subject to comprehensive review by the regulatory body. At the same time, the self-driving cars also need to meet the standardized Society of Automotive Engineers-made definition requirements to qualify at Level 4 or 5 autonomy before being granted permits. At level 5, that would effectively mean being able to operate independently of connected systems – such as GPS – while still being able to adapt to changing road conditions and traffic via onboard sensors and machine learning. Moreover, the vehicles need to be hardened against external manipulation from malicious actors. There are also more strict rules pertaining to the timeframes during which testing will occur and more.
Beyond that, more stringent rules have been introduced for the human-assisted vehicles, with regard to the human co-occupant. Since those professionals need to act as backup drivers for some testing, they need to have a clean driving record for the prior ten years. That includes a requirement that they've not been found at fault in accidents involving injury or death for a minimum of five years. A minimum of three years of driving experience is required as well. Furthermore, co-drivers will require certification through licensed autonomous vehicle test driver training programs. Whether or not any of these rules or the accompanying 31-page explanation of them can assuage public concerns about the safety of autonomous vehicles remains to be seen. However, this does seem to go a long way toward attempting to rein in the A.I. and tech-driven transportation systems and set firmer rules for their deployment in the state of California.