California rules might make self-driving cars drive for the border

22 October 2016 by Steve Blum

Companies that are developing self-driving cars apparently aren’t happy with proposed new rules floated by California’s department of motor vehicles. There was a public meeting in Sacramento earlier this week to discuss the DMV’s latest plan for opening up California’s road to autonomous vehicles, both for research and development purposes and for actual operation.

The draft would require companies to compile testing data for a year, before applying for permission to run a car without a driver – and without a steering wheel and all the other controls humans need. As reported by Reuters, an industry group characterised that as a needless barrier

The state’s approach “could greatly delay the benefits that self-driving vehicles can bring to safety and mobility for individuals,” said David Strickland, who heads the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets that includes Google, Ford, Lyft, Uber Technologies Inc. and Volvo Car Group.

Another, more problematic rule would short circuit any legal protections manufacturers – or eventual owners – might have against police searches. According to the DMV’s draft

The manufacturer shall certify that it will release autonomous technology sensor data…that is in its possession or control to law enforcement or peace officers within 24 hours of their request for such data.

R&D restrictions also drew fire. Rather than set statewide standards, the DMV wants driverless car developers to get local approval from any jurisdiction where they might be operating. While it’s probably a good idea to give local cops advance warning about what’s going on, subjecting tech companies to the whims of every nimby along the route is sure way to encourage them to just keep driving to, say, Nevada or Arizona.

Nothing is carved in stone yet. The next move is up to the DMV.