The California legislature is worried that the CA DMV is running off potential business from the state with its draft rules on self-driving cars.  A bill was proposed to force the CA DMV to allow driverless operations and testing of cars like the ones Google has created with no steering wheel or pedals. The bill recently was approved in the transportation committee 14-0 to move to the appropriations committee. Now, assembly member Mike Gatto of Los Angeles — sponsor of the legislation — has provided comments on the legislation:

The author raises concerns with the current proposed contents of DMV’s upcoming regulatory package, relating specifically to the prohibition on autonomous vehicles without a licensed driver in the vehicle, and without the specified technical attributes. The author believes that, by not allowing these types of vehicles to be tested or operated in California, DMV risks stifling technological innovation in the state and encouraging manufacturers advancing this technology to relocate to other states with less restrictive autonomous vehicle standards. Some estimates suggest that fatalities from motor vehicle accidents could fall by 90% and save $190 billion once autonomous vehicles become prevalent in the state.

He goes on to comment:

By directing DMV to include these types of autonomous vehicles in its regulatory framework, the author intends to keep the development of technology in California, and ensure access to autonomous vehicles for all Californians, particularly those who are unable to drive conventional motor vehicles. The author believes AB 2866 will enable the state to reap the economic and public health benefits of autonomous vehicles, which “have the potential to save Californians’ lives, time and money.”

Out of concern for losing out on technological innovation and the corresponding economic and public health benefits, AB 2866 would force DMV to make larger strides in the development of its regulations by removing the department’s discretion to make incremental steps towards approving technologies that do not require the oversight of a licensed driver and physical override mechanisms in the vehicle.

Of particular interest, though, is what the DMV is communicating to him:

According to DMV, the department has been in constant communication with NHTSA on the topic of its autonomous vehicle regulations and will likely be able to easily comport its regulatory package to NHTSA’s model state policy.

The NHTSA model state self -driving car regulations were announced in January and to be released this summer and will specifically encourage driverless operations with no steering wheel or pedals.

Since the DMV proposed rules to ban Google’s Koala car operations in Dec 2015, Google has expanded its fleet testing to Kirkland, WA and Phoenix, AZ. Two additional sites are expected in the coming year with Ann Arbor, MI being one of them.

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