Fully driverless cars will soon be a reality on California’s roadways after the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles has eliminated the requirement for autonomous vehicles to have a person in the driver’s seat. According to a report on Curbed San Francisco, this new rule will go into effect on April 2. California has given 50 companies a license to test self-driving vehicles in the state. The new rules also require companies to be able to operate the vehicle remotely. It’s very similar to flying a military drone. Companies should also be able to communicate with law enforcement and other drivers when something goes wrong.
Autonomous Vehicles and Regulations
The rule changes signal a step toward the wider deployment of driverless cars. Autonomous vehicles, advocates say, are much safer because they won’t “drive drunk” or while distracted by cell phones – serious problems with human drivers. Also, supporters say driverless vehicles can operate 24 hours a day without any problem with alertness or fatigue. In addition, taking the human driver out of the front seat is an important logistical and psychological step for truly autonomous cars to hit the road.
Tech companies and automakers who are in a race to put these cars out have been putting pressure on regulators to give them more latitude. A majority of the companies leading the race for these driverless cars are California-based, some have started testing these vehicles in Arizona, where the government has taken a much more “hands-off” approach to the technology. Arizona has not set any rules for autonomous vehicles. Waymo, Google’s self-driving car unit, began testing driverless cars without any human drivers on Arizona’s road back in October. Uber has also deployed driverless cars in Arizona. However, it does use safety drivers in its vehicles.
The Issue of Safety
Safety advocates and watchdogs have expressed concerns about truly driverless cars being tested on public roadways without any backup mechanism such as a human driver taking over right away if something goes wrong. Advocates are skeptical about how a remote operator might be able to control this robot car from a faraway location, should things go awry.
Now that California has begun to allow truly driverless cars on its roadways, the conversation should swiftly shift to public safety. How safe are other drivers and pedestrians? Will a remote controller be able to prevent mishaps or accidents in a timely manner? I suppose we will find out very soon. If you or a loved one has been injured by a driverless car, please remember that you do have legal rights. Even though the laws involving liability are still evolving, there are ways in which you can seek and obtain compensation for your losses for car accidents caused by these autonomous vehicles.