Autonomous Vehicle Regulation: Who’s at the Wheel?

Regulatory environments are invariably shaped not only by regulators but also by the companies they oversee. It’ll be particularly interesting to see how Google (and others) shapes California DMV regs on autonomous cars.

At least from the outside, there seems to a predictably massive knowledge gap between the CA DMV and autonomous vehicle developers. Google has been at this for six years, has logged over 1.3 million miles in autonomous cars, and has 45 units testing in and around Mountain View. The CA DMV, of course, has none of that.

One way to overcome this knowledge gap is through information sharing. And Google is sharing some data with the CA DMV. Presumably other makers are, too. In theory, at least, the problem has a solution.

The CA DMV revealed its proposed regs in Dec. 2015. Based on this week’s testimony, those regs appear to miss the mark. Pretty significantly. Under the currently proposed regs, Google’s “stage 4”, fully autonomous vehicles wouldn’t be allowed on the road.

It appears, then, that either (i) insufficient information was conveyed to the CA DMV or (ii) some other vector of influence is driving (pardon the pun) the process in a different direction.

Because we over-value things we’ve created, and because the December 2015 regs serve as a basis for the Jan. and Feb. 2016 hearings, it appears that a significant amount of work will be required to right the ship.

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