The California DMV stands to further ease its regulations on autonomous vehicles at the urging of automakers, Reuters reports following a heated public hearing in Sacramento Tuesday. Representatives from the Association for Global Automakers, a trade group representing car makers pushing for autonomous vehicles and their deregulation, lobbied for a number of changes to self-driving car testing laws in the state, pushing the DMV to leave as much oversight as possible to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
There are currently 21 autonomous car companies operating in the state. As they stand, CA regulations require autonomous-driving test vehicles to have conventional controls like pedals and a steering wheel as well as a backup driver on hand. But as of last month the DMV proposed revising those rules, dropping such requirements — one of the points of contention at yesterday's meeting.
According to the DMV's notice of proposed regulatory action, that's because times have changed. "Since the adoption of the current testing regulations, the capabilities of autonomous technology has proceeded to the point where manufacturers have developed systems that are capable of operating without the presence of a driver inside the vehicle," the DMV writes, seeming to lend support to the Association for Global Automakers. "The department is amending article 3.7 to include the testing of vehicles that do not require the presence of a driver inside the vehicle," says the agency's notice.
But safety and consumer advocates are pushing back on the claims of the Association for Global Automakers. "We do not trust the auto manufacturers or the tech industry to protect the public in the absence of federal motors vehicle safety standards," Rosemary Shahan, president of the watchdog group Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, reportedly said at yesterday's meeting. While the proposed rule changes would go into effect by year's end, don't throw away that driver's license just yet. This fight isn't out of road yet.