YouTube video

The state of California issued draft regulations Wednesday covering the expected deployment of driverless cars by Tesla and Google as early as next year.

The draft rules from the Department of Motor Vehicles call for a specially licensed driver to be in the vehicle and able to take over control. The driver would be responsible for any accidents or violations of traffic laws.

“Given the potential risks associated with deployment of such a new technology, DMV believes that manufacturers need to obtain more experience in testing
driverless vehicles on public roads prior to making this technology available to the general public,” the agency said.

The DMV plans to issue regulations covering fully autonomous vehicles — without the presence of a driver — after further testing.

Google, which has been testing its vehicles with drivers under a temporary permit, said it was “gravely disappointed” that the latest rules do not allow vehicles without licensed drivers on California roads.

“Safety is our highest priority and primary motivator as we do this,” the company said in a statement. “We’re gravely disappointed that California is already writing a ceiling on the potential for fully self-driving cars to help all of us who live here.”

Google has been promoting the vehicles as a way for people who can’t drive to more easily be transported, and requiring a licensed driver would make the new technology much less useful.

Eleven manufacturers currently hold permits to test autonomous vehicles in California.

Public meetings are scheduled for Jan. 28 in Sacramento and Feb. 2 in Los Angeles to discuss the draft regulations

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.