Driverless Vehicle Testing, Use OK in California

"This is a major step forward for autonomous technology in California," DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said. "Safety is our top concern, and we are ready to begin working with manufacturers that are prepared to test fully driverless vehicles in California."

The California Department of Motor Vehicles announced Feb. 26 that the state's Office of Administrative Law has approved regulations governing the driverless testing and public use of autonomous vehicles on California roads. Prior to these rules, autonomous vehicles could be tested in California only with an approved driver on board.

"This is a major step forward for autonomous technology in California," DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said. "Safety is our top concern, and we are ready to begin working with manufacturers that are prepared to test fully driverless vehicles in California."

The regulations set rules for testing autonomous technology without a driver and how manufacturers can allow the public to use self-driving cars. The regulations become effective on April 2, 2018, and DMV can begin issuing permits on that date.

DMV is required to adopt regulations that cover both the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles. Testing regulations that require a driver behind the steering wheel took effect in September 2014 and, thus far, 50 manufacturers have a permit to test autonomous vehicles with a driver. Manufacturers can continue to apply for a test permit with a driver.

The new regulations say vehicle manufacturers must obtain a driverless testing and/or a deployment permit from DMV and comply with the permit requirements if they want to either test an autonomous vehicle without a driver or allow the public to use their autonomous technology. The requirements for driverless testing include:

  • Certify that local authorities, where vehicles will be tested, have been provided written notification.
  • Certify the autonomous test vehicle complies with requirements that include a communication link between the vehicle and remote operator, a process to communicate between the vehicle and law enforcement, and an explanation of how the manufacturer will monitor test vehicles.
  • Submit a copy of a law enforcement interaction plan.
  • Certify the autonomous test vehicle meets all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or provide evidence of an exemption from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • Certify the autonomous test vehicle is capable of operating without the presence of a driver and meets the autonomous technology description of a Level 4 or Level 5 under the Society of Automotive Engineers definitions.
  • Inform DMV of the intended operational design domains.
  • Maintain a training program for remote operations and certify each operator has completed training.
  • Submit an annual disengagement report and submit collision reports to DMV within 10 days.

Requirements for public use include:

  • Certify the vehicle is equipped with an autonomous vehicle data recorder, the technology is designed to detect and respond to roadway situations in compliance with the California Vehicle Code, and the vehicle complies with all FMVSS or provide evidence of an exemption from NHTSA.
  • Certify the vehicle meets current industry standards to help defend against, detect, and respond to cyber attacks, unauthorized intrusions, or false vehicle control commands.
  • Certify the manufacturer has conducted test and validation methods and is satisfied the vehicle is safe for deployment on public roads.
  • Submit a copy of a law enforcement interaction plan.
  • If the vehicle does not require a driver, the manufacturer must also certify to other requirements, including a communication link between the vehicle and a remote operator and the ability to display or transfer vehicle owner or operator information in the event of a collision.

The regulations don't include testing and deployment of autonomous trucks and other commercial vehicles. DMV reported it will be collaborating with the California Highway Patrol to begin exploring the unique safety and regulatory considerations associated with those vehicles.

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