— California may be afraid of losing driverless car business to other states as the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has proposed rules that safety advocates say allow automakers to call the shots.
Previous rules proposed by the California DMV would have required a driver in every test vehicle to monitor any potential problems.
The DMV now says no human driver will be required and the car's computer system can be considered a driver, following a 2016 decision by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that says a computer can replace a human driver.
The DMV also removed rules concerning crash-related reports when driverless car technology must be disengaged by a driver to avoid a dangerous situation. The original proposed rules also would have required manufacturers to report a crash within 10 days of the event, but that requirement has been erased in the new proposed regulations.
Additionally, previous rules would have forced a manufacturer of a car without a steering wheel to test the car in California for at least a year before marketing and selling the car, but the new proposed rules drop that requirement.
Previous regulations would have also required every driverless car manufacturer to get permission from a municipality before testing cars without steering wheels. Under the new proposed rules, a manufacturer only has to let a municipality know those cars will be tested in the area.
Automakers still aren't happy with California as companies want clear roads with no obstacles, meaning no regulations that could halt testing and deploying autonomous vehicles. In a hearing held in Sacramento, officials heard how they should get rid of proposed regulations and let the federal government call the shots.
NHTSA has been proposing "guidelines" for driverless car companies but only on a voluntary basis.
Consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog says California's proposed regulations are already “premature and irresponsible” and the state shouldn't cave in to automakers because federal autonomous safety standards are non-existent.
The organization says it filed a Public Records Act request with the California DMV requesting all communications between the governor and his staff with the DMV about the proposed self-driving car rules.
The DMV created something called its Initial Statement of Reasons that says, “NHTSA has not adopted any regulations governing the testing or operation of automated, or self-driving, vehicles on public roads, streets, and highways.” But now it seems California is intent on turning over its responsibilities to NHTSA, an agency that hasn't created any meaningful autonomous regulations.
“So, there is no federal safety standard specifically governing autonomous technology and NHTSA’s policy amounts to asking automakers voluntarily to please drop a letter in the mail that says, ‘yes, we thought about these issues.’ Anchoring California’s autonomous vehicle policy to such ephemeral federal policies – actual standards don’t even exist – cannot possibly provide adequate protection for the public." - Consumer Watchdog
California officials hope to have the proposed driverless car rules finalized by the end of 2017.