California is about to become the third state in the US with legislation designed to explicitly allow autonomous vehicles to be tested. California Governor Jerry Brown will sign the new law today at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View.
Yesterday afternoon, on Google’s video channel, I noticed a new live stream page that went up saying that Google cofounder Sergey Brin would be interviewing Brown on the Google campus. For what? That wasn’t stated.
Later that day, the Governor’s office sent out a notice that Brown would be signing legislation at Google. What legislation wasn’t revealed, which leads back to that live stream page I mentioned. The description there has now been updated to say:
California Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr. visits the Google Headquarters on September 24th, 2012 to sign SB1298, a bill that creates a legal framework and operational safety standards for the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles on state roads and highways.
Making Testing Officially Legal
It’s not illegal for robocars to operate in California, but neither has it been expressly legal. Our post earlier this year, Blind Man Is First “Driver” Of Google’s Self-Driving Car & Why It Was Legal, explains more about the gray area.
California’s new law will clear matters up, just as laws in Nevada last year and Florida last April do. Other states are also considering them.
New Law, But Not In Effect Until More Rules Created
The bill states:
The Legislature finds it appropriate to authorize the establishment of specific safety requirements for the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles, and to require that future testing and operation of autonomous vehicles in the state comply with those requirements
It goes on to outline rules such as:
- The vehicle can only be operated by those “designated” by the manufacturer of the car (so Google can let anyone it designates “drive” the cars)
- The “driver” has to be seated in the driver’s seat and able to take over manual control (so this means Steve Mahan, the blind man who “drove” one of the cars in March couldn’t do so under the new rules, since the actual driver of the car wasn’t behind the wheel)
- Autonomous cars can only operate after being certified — which would make all of Google’s cars illegal to operate once the law is signed until they are formally certified, but….
- Autonomous cars can continue operating under outside of this new law until the California Department Of Motor Vehicles drafts certification requirements and other rules. The DMV has until January 1, 2015 to do so. The new law really goes into effect 120 days after those are drafted
This is similar to Nevada. While it passed its driverless car law last year, it took until May until autonomous vehicle regulations were created and the first Nevada licenses issued.
That’s my read of highlights in the new law. No doubt, we’ll get more clarity on what happens next during the signing. That’s set to happen at 1pm PT. You can view it live below:
- Video: Inside Google’s Self-Driving Cars
- Blind Man Is First “Driver” Of Google’s Self-Driving Car & Why It Was Legal
- Nevada Approves Google Auto-Driving Cars, Issues “AU” Plates With Infinity Symbol