New DMV Robot Car Rules Prioritize Safety; Follow Consumer Watchdog’s Call To Require Steering Wheel And Pedals; Privacy & Cybersecurity Also Addressed

SANTA MONICA, CA – Draft regulations covering self-driving robot cars issued today by the California Department of Motor Vehicles incorporate a key safety provision advocated by Consumer Watchdog and require the robot cars to have a steering wheel and pedals and be occupied by a licensed driver capable of taking control of the vehicle.

The draft regulations also require a third-party testing organization to conduct a vehicle test to provide an independent performance verification of the vehicle. That is in addition to the manufacturer being required to certify the robot car meets safety and performance standards.

“Google may be in overdrive in its rush to develop robot cars, but the DMV has admirably served as traffic cop and proposed reasonable limits to protect public safety,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project director.

Read the DMV’s draft regulations here:

The draft regulations also include important privacy and cybersecurity protections. Manufacturers must disclose to the operator if information is collected, other than the information needed to safely operate the vehicle. Manufacturers will be required to obtain approval to collect this additional information, the DMV said. Autonomous vehicles will be equipped with self-diagnostic capabilities that detect and respond to cyber-attacks or other unauthorized intrusions, alert the operator, and allow for an operator override.

“The privacy regulations are essential,” said Simpson. “Robot car technology should be about getting you from point A to B, not about collecting data on everything you did along the way for the company to use however it wants.”

The DMV draft rules also limit deployment of an approved robot car to three years and will require manufacturers to report monthly on the performance, safety, and usage of autonomous vehicles.

The DMV plans to hold two public workshops next year to discuss the draft regulations on Jan. 28 in Sacramento and on Feb. 2 in Los Angeles. After the workshops DMV will propose formal regulations.  With public hearings and the required approval process, the regulations probably won’t take affect for at least a year.

Currently the DMV has regulations in effect that cover testing robot cars. Eleven companies have been approved to test robot cars on California’s highways. They are Volkswagen Group of America, Mercedes Benz, Google, Delphi Automotive, Tesla Motors, Bosch, Nissan, Cruise Automation, BMW, Honda and Ford.  Ford just announced it would begin testing a self-driving car in California starting in January.

Under the rules companies must file reports of any crashes involving the self-driving cars.  Read the robot car crash reports filed since September with the DMV here:

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Published by John M. Simpson

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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