What California’s Updated Autonomous Vehicle Regulations actually say in non-legalese

image-20150316-7070-x7cah3
Concept car via http://www.shutterstock.com

A big thank you to Michele Kyrouz for writing an awesome Medium post on California’s Updated Autonomous Vehicle Regulations. Here’s the highlights, plus some translation of what exactly an “autonomous vehicle” is.

California just updated its Autonomous Vehicle (“AV”) regulations in a few important ways, most notably being that manufacturers can now get approval to deploy AVs on public roads!

Biggest Changes:

  • No DMV Driver’s Test: Instead of you showing up at the DMV and driving around some cones at 15-16 years old to prove that you should be able to get behind the wheel of any car you desire for the remainder of your time on this earth, car manufacturers will have to self-certify. Details available here (Look at the last page of the application).
  • Car Companies are Liable: When you’re traveling in an AV, you aren’t the driver, you’re the passenger! This also means that the car company is liable, not you. Specifically, AV companies have to get $5 million insurance policies (or a surety bond) both at the testing phases and at the deployment phases (for a total of $10 million in policies).
  • During Testing, Car Companies Need to Notify Local Authorities: Car companies used to have to get a local ordinance passed, so this is actually an upgrade. During the meetup I attended, we discussed the reality of what this would entail – essentially, car companies need to have a protocol in place for local authorities to be able to disable the autonomous status of the autonomous vehicle. I vote for it to be voice based and sound something like this: “Olly Olly Oxen Free!” (If engineers setting up these protocols are reading this, PLEASE make sure that the pass phrase can only be activated by certain voices, like, the chief of police, or something. Otherwise one leak of the top secret phrase would result in people walking down the street and disabling driverless cars….)
  • Cars MUST Follow the Law: Ok, so this isn’t new, persay. But this is a new reality. Unless you’re a stickler for rules, you definitely broke at least one motor vehicle law on your way to work/school/whatever today. Imagine sharing the road with cars which by design physically could not violate California motor vehicle laws. On the plus side, we might finally all learn when you’re supposed to turn your fog lights on and off. (Inquiring minds must know, so I googled California’s rules for driving in the fog. The joke was on me though: The California Driver’s Handbook says “The best advice for driving in the fog is DON’T.” California Driver Handbook – Special Driving Situation.)

From “Oh S#*!” to “Wake up – You have arrived at your destination”

But what is an AV, exactly? Here’s SAE international’s “narrative definition”, followed by my “real-life example”s:

AVs” are defined as SAE Levels 3–5 only:

Screenshot 2017-04-27 16.13.48
https://www.sae.org/misc/pdfs/automated_driving.pdf

Level 3 – Conditional Automation: The driving mode-specific performance by an Automated Driving System of all aspects of the dynamic driving task with the expectation that the human driver will respond appropriately to a request to intervene.” Current SAE News Releases.
Real Life Example: This car can drive itself – until it can’t. This car expects a human driver to be standing by, reading to respond to the car’s request for a bit of assistance.

Level 4 – High Automation: The driving mode-specific performance by an Automated Driving System of all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even if a human driver does not respond appropriately to a request to intervene.” Current SAE News Releases.
Real Life Example: This car is basically a level 5 vehicle that hasn’t gone to a self-confidence boot camp. The biggest difference between Level 3 and Level 4 cars is when something bad happens, the computer in a level 4 car can handle things and does not require a human driver to be standing by, ready to help out.

Level 5 – Full Automation: The full-time performance by an Automated Driving System of all aspects of the dynamic driving task under all roadway and environmental conditions that can be managed by a human driver.” Current SAE News Releases.
Real Life Example: This car can drive itself. All the time. Up hill, both ways, all day long. You can sleep until you arrive at your destination, this car’s system has no desire for you to intervene.

Conclusion

We are FINALLY going to get driverless cars! That, and if you didn’t already know how to parallel park, don’t bother learning now 🙂 Your car will be able to park itself all the ways.

 

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