New Measure Could Put Driverless Cars on City Streets Next Year

It has been a long time coming but driverless cars could finally be on public roads in June of 2018.  Well, at least, in California; and that does not necessarily mean they will be for sale.

This week, the California Department of Motor Vehicles proposed a new set of streamlined regulations to be heard discussed and debated during a 15-day public comment period. The hope is to set new guidelines for public road operation, approved by the DMV by early next year.

Right now, of course, driverless cars can be tested/operated, but only with a human behind the wheel. This, of course, has been a necessary measure since the beginning of this process, as the technology still required human intervention on occasion.  The time is nearing, then, to test the technology without that important component.

As such, California State Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly commented, “We are excited to take the next step in furthering the development of this potentially life-saving technology in California,” noting also that officials believe these vehicles will be help to reduce crashes by removing the human-error factor from the activity of driving.

Obviously, this feels counterintuitive, but when the technology reaches its most proficient operations, it should reduce the risk posed by flawed human decision making.

Accordingly, California Department of Motor Vehicles Director Jean Shiomoto comments, “The department looks forward to seeing those companies and additional companies advance the technology under these new regulations. Today’s action continues the department’s efforts to complete these regulations by the end of the year.”

Right now there are 285 self-driving cars under testing on California streets, operating by 42 permit holders.  Most of these, of course, are regulated auto manufacturers or tech companies. In response to this legislation, then, many of these manufacturers say these cars will likely add more automated capabilities over the next months and years.

Accordingly, General Motors executive Paul Hemmersbaugh, who also happens to be a former chief council for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, notes there are too many variables to simply predict when we will complete this transitional test period to begin mass production—and sale—of driverless cars.

He notes, “I think a reasonable guesstimate might be that some manufacturer might be ready to commercially deploy some significant number of (autonomous vehicles) in two to five years. It will take a much longer time – if it ever happens – for AVs to substantially displace traditional motor vehicles and predominate in the U.S. motor vehicle fleet.”