12/17/2015 | 1 MINUTE READ

California Proposes Restrictions on Autonomous Cars

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California's Department of Motor Vehicles has proposed new rules to restrict the use of autonomous vehicles on the state's public roads.

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California's Department of Motor Vehicles has proposed new rules to restrict the use of autonomous vehicles on the state's public roads.

Under the proposal, self-driving vehicles would be prohibited if they don't have a traditional steering wheel, foot pedals and a specially licensed person in the driver's seat to take control if necessary. That person also would be responsible for obeying traffic laws, regardless if he or she was actually controlling the car's movement.

The proposal also would require autonomous cars to meet new safety and performance requirements, with testing and certification done by a third-party auditor. To get a three-year operating permit, manufacturers would need to submit regular reports on the safety and usage of their self-driving cars.

The California regulatory group reasons that carmakers and other companies developing autonomous vehicles need to test automated driving systems more fully to ensure they can safely interact with other vehicles and pedestrians. The DMV, which already requires that prototype self-driving vehicles have trained test drivers onboard, will hold two public hearings on the new rules in January and February.

The would-be rule change would prohibit robotic taxis being developed by Google and other companies. Such vehicles lack a driver or controls that enable human operation.

Carmakers currently licensed to test autonomous vehicles in California include BMW, Ford, Google, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Tesla and Volkswagen. Among licensed suppliers are Bosch, Delphi and Cruise Automation. Google also is testing its self-driving vehicles in Texas, which has less restrictive rules than California.